England beat New Zealand 36-18 in Denver Test

Sabrin, Leoreta, Anas, Sadea
Tommy Makinson scores second debut try of the match
International Test match, Denver, USA
England (10) 36
Tries: Hall, Whitehead 2, Connor, Makinson, Bateman Goals: Widdop 6
New Zealand (12) 18
Tries: Marsters, Watene-Zelezniak 2 Goals: Isaako 3

England came from behind to ease past New Zealand in a Test match that was played in Denver, Colorado.

It was England’s first match since the 2017 World Cup final loss to Australia.

Esan Marsters and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak gave the Kiwis a 12-0 lead before Ryan Hall’s brilliant try cut the deficit.

Elliott Whitehead scored twice and debutants Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson both went over before John Bateman completed a resounding victory.

England impress on American adventure

England had more of the possession and completed an impressive 82% of their sets

England were playing in the USA for the first time since 2000 as they aim to raise the sport’s profile in North America, which is hosting the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.

The 76,125-capacity Mile High Stadium had large banks of empty seats, but the 19,320 fans who were there became excitable each time the two sides came close to the try-line.

The match, played 5,000ft above sea level, provided a stern test and the difficult conditions were immediately evident as the ball sailed a number of metres out of play straight from kick-off.

New Zealand opened the lead through Marsters, one of seven debutants in the Kiwi side, following Kodi Nikorima’s clever break.

Isaac Luke then ripped through the defence before laying on full-back Watene-Zelezniak, who also added a consolation late on.

England responded impressively with 32 unanswered points, starting with Hall’s acrobatic effort from Connor’s pass, although it looked like the Leeds Rhinos winger had dropped the ball while finishing.

Whitehead burrowed over each side of half-time and Widdop added a 50m penalty, while Hull’s Connor and St Helens’ Makinson both capped their first England match by touching down in the second period.

‘Very physical’ game – what they said

England captain Sean O’Loughlin: “The heat took its toll a little bit but the altitude was probably the biggest thing. Both sides felt it and it made the game scrappy at times but you just get through it.

“We’ve had a good week and hopefully put on a great game for everyone to see and, most importantly, got the win which is what we came here to do.

“They had a good start but we fought back and showed some guts. The atmosphere about the place was brilliant, it might not have been full but the crowd was right on top of you and you could feel there was a good atmosphere.”

England’s Sam Burgess: “I know there have been critics but I thought both teams played with passion and heart and effort and that’s what Test match football is all about.

“The game was physical and it got fiery. The Kiwis have got a point to prove but I thought it was a great game of football.”

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire: “The boys really controlled the game in the first 20. Unfortunately at the back end of the first half our completion rates dropped, which increased the missed tackles and the pressure on us just became strong.

“But credit to the young guys who showed me we’ve got some really good depth, they really impressed me and gave me something to work with.”

Analysis – ‘The best team won’

Bradford Bulls head coach John Kear on BBC Two: “[It was] a fantastic night’s entertainment and very satisfying for England. New Zealand are edging their way back up as well and their coach Michael Maguire will take many positives from that.

“The best team won by that scoreline because of the performance levels and some really good individual efforts as well as collective from the men in white.”

St Helens forward Jon Wilkin: “England grew into the game and the ball control was excellent. They were relatively flawless and I do not think they made an error in the second half. That gave them all the possession and took all the Kiwis’ strengths away.

“New Zealand looked dangerous at the start of the game when they were fresh, but once England weathered that storm, they were by far the better side. They created chances but, more importantly at international level, they took their chances too.”

What next?

New Zealand head to England for a three-match series at the end of the Super League season:

  • Saturday, 27 October, 14:30 BST – KCOM Stadium, Hull.
  • Saturday, 3 November, 17:30 GMT – Anfield, Liverpool.
  • Sunday, 11 November, 15:15 GMT – Elland Road, Leeds.

All those games will be live on BBC TV, radio and online.

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