Issac Luke’s New Zealand Kiwis have booked their place in next Saturday’s Four Nations final after beating a determined England outfit by just two points – 16-4.
In an outstanding advertisement for the international game, both sides ripped into each other with hurricane fury, but it would be the home-side that would ultimately take the points.
With their first use of the ball, the Kiwis went straight on the offensive and came away with points, when Shaun Johnson put in a well-placed kick across field to Jason Nightingale who came down with the ball and four-points. Johnson converted from out wide to give the home-side a six-nil lead with three minutes gone.
But just a couple of sets later, England would hit straight back through winger Ryan Hall, who finished off a back-line movement to cross in the far corner. Gareth Widdop’s conversion attempt hit the upright, leaving the Kiwis ahead at six points to four.
England were in again in the 25th minute, when the sides other winger Josh Charnley crossed in the other corner. Amazingly, Widdop again found the upright with his conversion attempt to leave England leading at 8-6.
The Kiwis wouldn’t be outdone though just minutes later, when Jason Nightingale grabbed his second of the night after Dean Whare drew in the England defence out wide allowing the winger to cross. Johnson made no mistake to make it 12-8 going into the sheds.
On the resumption, Ryan Hall bombed an opportunity to grab his second when he dropped the ball cold over the line. But the Kiwis made no mistake when Manu Vatuvei slid into the corner to extend their lead mere minutes later. Johnson missed his first of the afternoon, leaving the score at 16-8.
It was becoming a battle of the wingers, when Ryan Hall again combined with Dan Sarginson on the English fringe to score his second of the night. Widdop finally found the middle of the sticks to make it a two point ball-game at 16-14.
With the clock winding down, both sides traded opportunities as they desperately searched for an advantage, while a string of penalties in both directions aided their efforts.
A thrilling final two minutes saw England play an expansive brand of rugby league in their attempt to stay alive in the competition, but the Kiwis held on to take a brilliant match by 16-14.
New Zealand 16 (Jason Nightingale 2, Manu Vatuvei, tries; Shaun Johnson 2 goals)
England 14 (Ryan Hall 2, Josh Charnley, tries; Gareth Widdop 1 goal)