Ben­nett sees Eng­land win and then asks RLIF to ‘stand up for the sport’

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE CRAVEN

ENG­LAND coach Wayne Ben­nett watched his side com­plete a se­ries vic­tory over New Zea­land in a thrilling Test match and then urged in­ter­na­tional rugby league chiefs to “stand up for the sport.”

The hosts trailed by eight points early in the sec­ond pe­riod of yes­ter­day’s bru­tal and com­pelling sec­ond Test at An­field, but hit back with St He­lens winger Tommy Makin­son com­plet­ing a stun­ning hat-trick to win 20-14.

Hav­ing also won the opener in Hull it means Eng­land al­ready have the se­ries sewn up ahead of next Sun­day’s third and fi­nal Test at El­land Road.

How­ever, the in­ten­sity, drama and qual­ity of the games so far has only served as a re­minder of what in­ter­na­tional rugby league can achieve.

As yet Eng­land’s itin­er­ary for 2019 is still to be con­firmed although it is planned that Great Bri­tain will re­con­vene for the first time since 2007 for a tour of the south­ern hemi­sphere.

It re­mains to be seen if Aus­tralia will be the op­po­nents, but the Rugby League In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion is meet­ing in York­shire this week to dis­cuss the way for­ward.

Ben­nett, a long-term in­ter­na­tional ad­vo­cate who has coached Aus­tralia and as­sisted the Ki­wis dur­ing their World Cup 2008 win, wants to see some pos­i­tive progress af­ter an en­cour­ag­ing crowd of 26,234 wit­nessed a clas­sic con­test in Liver­pool.

“Aus­tralia do what they want to do, but we will be in that part of the world next year and we will be play­ing Test matches,” he said. “We might not be play­ing Aus­tralia, but we will be over there some­where and we will be play­ing Test matches, and I’m very con­fi­dent about that.

“There was a great crowd [at An­field] and they got right be­hind the boys.

“Tonga and Samoa have done won­der­ful things on the in­ter­na­tional front re­cently and we have just got to keep build­ing on it now and try to get the pol­i­tics out of it.

“The play­ers want to play in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, us and New Zea­land have given so much and it is a great three-match se­ries.

“The RLIF are meet­ing in York this week aren’t they?

“I hope they have a strong meet­ing, stand up for the game and give us a prod­uct that we all want to see, which is in­ter­na­tional foot­ball played by the very best.”

Ben­nett com­pleted his first se­ries suc­cess since tak­ing over from Steve McNa­mara at the end of 2015.

Makin­son, 26, only made his Test de­but in June, but in just his third ap­pear­ance made a stun­ning con­tri­bu­tion.

Ben­nett said: “I just want to know where you’ve been hid­ing him.

“I didn’t know about Tom un­til we took him to Amer­ica and re­alised he was pretty spe­cial then.”

Eng­land were un­der in­tense pres­sure in the first pe­riod, but went into half-time at 6-6.

“We weren’t get­ting too much ball, noth­ing was go­ing for us and we were hang­ing in there,” ad­mit­ted Ben­nett.

“Tommy de­fended great out there and so did Jake Con­nor. They played great to­gether, the tide turned for us turned for us be­cause we didn’t let the score­board get away and we won the Test match.”

Ben­nett is not ex­pected to make too many changes in Leeds, de­spite the se­ries be­ing se­cured.

“Test jer­seys are too valu­able,” he said. “I’m not just go­ing to give away Test jer­seys be­cause I want to be nice to some­one. It is not go­ing to hap­pen. The boys earn their right to wear them and I don’t want to take it off them.”



SOME peo­ple may have won­dered if Eng­land had much chance against New Zea­land when their record try-scorer Ryan Hall was, like so many lead­ing play­ers, ruled out of this se­ries due to ma­jor knee surgery in Au­gust.

They need not have wor­ried. His re­place­ment Tommy Makin­son, the St He­lens winger who only de­buted in Den­ver in June, scored a dream hat-trick to de­liver his coun­try a stun­ning vic­tory in a fas­ci­nat­ing sec­ond Test at An­field and clinch the se­ries.

The 27-year-old has had to bide his time to make it on the big­gest stage of all but, in a pul­sat­ing con­test, he cer­tainly de­liv­ered here.

Makin­son’s bril­liant solo try in the 74th minute that com­pleted his tre­ble was wor­thy of win­ning any se­ries, let alone any game, as he leant back­wards to col­lect Jake Con­nor’s pass and then slalomed in­field with a re­mark­able run to pierce the stunned Ki­wis.

It capped a great come­back from Wayne Ben­nett’s side who trailed 14-6 early in the sec­ond pe­riod but now head to El­land Road on Sun­day with the Baskerville Shield al­ready se­cured look­ing to com­plete a 3-0 white­wash.

A melee sparked, by Kiwi James Fisher-Har­ris’s late hit on Sam Tomkins, fired up the hosts and proved the cat­a­lyst for their resur­gence in a fiercely-con­tested Test match.

Con­nor, the Hull FC cen­tre, pro­vided a lovely as­sist with an over­head, no-look pass for Makin­son – long-listed for Wed­nes­day’s Golden Boot – to scam­per in for his sec­ond try in the 57th minute.

From thereon in, Ben­nett’s side looked the most dan­ger­ous, much like the pre­vi­ous week in Hull.

Kiwi winger Jor­dan Ra­pana spilled a sim­ple Tomkins kick be­hind his own line to gift Eng­land an­other set of six which saw Tom Burgess storm over only to be held up be­tween the posts.

But the hosts pressed fur­ther and, af­ter Ra­pana dropped pos­ses­sion on half­way, Con­nor came to the fore again to level the game.

It was a smart blind­side move ini­ti­ated by Josh Hodg­son that saw El­liott White­head give Con­nor space and the 24-year-old twisted through Joseph Manu to fin­ish.

Un­for­tu­nately, his con­ver­sion at­tempt hit a post but the home side had, af­ter a dif­fi­cult open­ing, found their rhythm at the crit­i­cal time.

In­deed, they al­most pressed ahead when Jonny Lo­max, the im­pres­sive St He­lens full-back, sent Makin­son clear again only to see the ball bounce for­ward. It was his only er­ror in the game.

Luke Thomp­son and John Bate­man were colos­sal up front for Eng­land and Hodg­son im­pressed, too, while Castle­ford Tigers’ Adam Mil­ner made a brief de­but off the bench.

Yet, for all the end re­sult, Eng­land will have been happy to have gone in at 6-6 hav­ing had lit­tle de­cent at­tack­ing ball and spent most of the first pe­riod deal­ing with a fe­ro­cious Kiwi pack that truly looked in the mood to cause some dam­age.

It was not just their for­wards ei­ther; ro­bust winger Ken Mau­malo came in­field and sent Oliver Gil­dart fly­ing back­wards, full­back Dallin Watene-Zelez­niak re­turned a kick directly at El­liott White­head that had the Eng­land sec­ond-row march­ing back­wards and so it went on.

To their credit, how­ever, Ben­nett’s side rarely buck­led, a trait that is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon with this squad.

Their line was only breached once and that was down to a sim­ple one-on-one miss from Sam Tomkins, the half-back who seemed sur­prised as Watene-Zelez­niak en­tered the line and pressed on the ac­cel­er­a­tors to com­fort­ably arc past him from 10 me­tres out in the ninth minute.

Shaun John­son con­verted and it came in re­sponse to Con­nor’s early penalty af­ter Jesse Bromwich hit Tomkins late af­ter the pass, spark­ing the first of a num­ber of melees.

There­after, though, Eng­land fiercely pro­tected their line.

Makin­son, in par­tic­u­lar, was put un­der pres­sure but not once, not twice but three times de­nied Kiwi thrusts.

Part of the rea­son Eng­land were un­der al­most per­sis­tance pres­sure, though, was their own ball con­trol or, more pre­cis­ley, lack of it.

Gil­dart twice spilled un­der lit­tle pres­sure while, on the op­po­site side, Con­nor was forced into mis­takes as he diced with the touch­line.

The Hull FC cen­tre also had a kick charged down while Ge­orge Wil­liams gave away a need­less penalty when block­ing John­son.

Eng­land did score, though, af­ter 39 min­utes with their best move of the half af­ter Wil­liams’s grub­ber forced a drop-out.

It was the Wi­gan half-back who sent a long, loop­ing cut-out pass that was so well-ex­e­cuted Makin- son did not have to check his stride be­fore ju­bi­lantly div­ing in at the corner to level the con­test.

New Zea­land went 12-6 ahead when Watene-Zelez­niak, their in­spi­ra­tional cap­tain, made a scin­til­lat­ing break to send Ken Mau­malo over in the 45th minute for John­son to con­vert.

John­son added a penalty soon af­ter but Ben­nett’s side showed no signs of cow­ing even af­ter the loss of Daryl Clark to a painful rib in­jury.


MORE TO COME: Tommy Makin­son cel­e­brates scor­ing his and Eng­land’s first try be­fore go­ing on to com­plete a hat-trick as they beat New Zea­land at An­field yes­ter­day. The win as­sured Eng­land of vic­tory in the three-Test se­ries.


VIC­TORY SMILES: Eng­land’s Chris Hill and John Bate­man cel­e­brate vic­tory over New Zea­land at An­field yes­ter­day, which clinched a Test se­ries win ahead of the third and fi­nal match at El­land Road on Sun­day.

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