England beat New Zealand 20-14 at Anfield this afternoon to seal a series victory over the visiting Kiwis with St Helens flying winger Tommy Makinson scoring an impressive hat-trick in just his third international appearance.
The game was in the balance at half-time with the teams level with six points apiece after a Jake Connor penalty and an uncoverted Makinson try were matched by New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s try and Shaun Johnson’s conversion. A Watene-Zelezniak break led to a Ken Maumolo score, the centre able to run the ball in with ease and, after Johnson scored a second conversion and followed it up with a penalty goal, the Kiwis led 14-6 with half an hour remaining.
Then, the England left edge took over. Hitting back as they aimed to close down New Zealand’s lead, the ball made it’s way cross field and, after Jonny Lomax’s pass to Jake Connor in the centres, the Hull FC man produced a sublime tip along to send Makinson in from yards out. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful but it wouldn’t be long before England built on Makinson’s second and tied the game. Quick thinking from hooker Josh Hodgson at dummy half saw the Canberra man play from dummy half yards from the line, giving Raiders teammate Elliott Whitehead the ball and, when the back rower provided Connor with the ball, England’s number three was over in the corner.
Another unsuccessful conversion attempt left the score level and it remained that way until the 73rd minute. That was when Makinson scored the try of the match, a try which proved to be the gamebreaker. After Lomax ran wide with the ball and threw wider to Connor, the move seemed to break down after the centre’s pass to Makinson was behind him, seemingly stopping the momentum. However, the Saints winger had other ideas. Seeing a gap open up, he demonstrated lightning speed to seize the opportunity, sidestepping and weaving through the Kiwis defence. Despite the tackles thrown at him, the 27-year-old reached the line and, after referee Gerard Sutton referred the score to the video official, the try was confirmed.
With that – and after Sam Tomkins’ successful conversion – the match was won and, with it, the series. With a game to spare, Wayne Bennett’s England team have triumphed over Michael Maguire’s Kiwis and, with the Baskerville Shield secured, the teams will go to Leeds and Elland Road next Sunday with England aiming for a series whitewash while New Zealand will be driven to avoid that unwanted feat.