England 18-16 New Zealand: Oliver Gildart's impressive debut try earns victory

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport
International tri-series
England (12) 18
Tries: Tomkins, Connor, Gildart Goals: Connor 3
New Zealand (12) 16
Tries: Marsters, Watene-Zalezniak Goals: Johnson 4

Oliver Gildart scored a match-winning debut try as England's three-match series against New Zealand got off to an ideal start with a tense 18-16 win.

Sam Tomkins' converted try gave England a 6-0 lead at Hull's KCom Stadium before Esan Marsters levelled.

It was 12-6 to the Kiwis when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak dived over before England were awarded a penalty try as Jake Connor was illegally tackled.

Two more penalties gave New Zealand a 16-12 lead before Gildart's score.

The 22-year-old centre, who helped Wigan to Grand Final success earlier this month, described his feat as "an unbelievable feeling".

The second Test is on Sunday 4 November at Anfield, Liverpool, with the final Test to be played on Sunday 11 November in Leeds.

Gildart try knocks Kiwis flat

The timing of Gildart's winning try could not have been more ideal.

The Kiwis, who were stung by England in June in Denver, had gone 16-14 ahead after the impressive Shaun Johnson's penalties.

It could have been worse for the home team but half-back Kodi Nikorima had been prevented from offloading the ball just a couple of metres from the try-line.

The moment that lifted the majority of a rather subdued Hull crowd to their feet came 14 minutes from time. Second rower John Bateman did superbly to hold off three Kiwi tackles before passing to Gildart on his outside.

The Wigan man moved up the gears and feigned to come inside before stepping back outside and running over in the corner.

He told BBC Sport: "I just backed myself, saw a bit of space and luckily got over.

"It happened really quickly. I sprinted as fast as I could, looked up to see the full-back and tried to beat him.

"I was just buzzing to make my debut for England and get the win. It's a bit of a shock to the system and I really enjoyed it."

Jamie Peacock, England's team manager, praised Gildart's maturity.

"He made the adjustment to this level very, very easily - he looked like he had been playing at this level for some time," he told BBC Sport.

"It was amazing for him to score that winning try. I thought he played well in the Grand Final - you have to remember he is the youngest player in our current squad."

His try was the second brilliant attacking play by England in the match - the first came moments after the start.

St Helens wing Tommy Makinson beat Jordan Rapana to take George Williams' high bomb before feeding a pass to club-mate Jonny Lomax. He then found Catalans-bound Tomkins, who dived over for the opening score.

England's other try came just before the break and was given after a long consultation with the video official. Connor appeared to have gone over, but New Zealand's players thought they had done enough to prevent him from touching down.

However, after a lengthy review the decision favoured the hosts.

Full-back and Kiwi skipper Watene-Zelezniak - who had several lengthy conversations with referee Robert Hicks during the Test - was judged to have tackled illegally by catching the England player in the face with his knees as he slid towards the line and a penalty try was given.

Johnson shines again for New Zealand

New Zealand's Shaun Johnson (centre)
Shaun Johnson (centre) - who earned Man of the Match honours against England and Scotland in the 2016 Four Nations - starred once more for New Zealand

New Zealand had been favourites, despite being beaten by England in the summer. The Kiwis came into this contest on the back of a brilliant 26-24 win over world champions Australia, and had maestro Johnson among their starting XIII.

The New Zealand Warrior, who scored the winning try against England at the 2013 World Cup semi-final and was a thorn in the side of England and Scotland in the 2016 Four Nations, was once again strutting on the pitch.

He was instrumental in pulling his side level when he cut through the defence with ease before offloading to Marsters, who ran in. And in the second half, with the score 14-14, his flat pass to team-mate Jesse Bromwich, five metres out, could have resulted in a try, but it was judged to be marginally forward.

Brisbane Broncos' Nikorima also gave the England defence the runaround. His pass for Watene-Zelezniak, who showed Bateman a clean pair of heels, resulted in his team's second try.

Watene-Zelezniak later explained to BBC Sport what went wrong for his team.

"We did not play to the best of our ability, we did not execute like we wanted to," the Penrith Panthers player said.

"We have two more games against them and hopefully we can turn it around.

"We are all professionals and did not get the result today. We have to go and do our homework and come back bigger and better next week."

There were victories for two other England teams on Saturday.

England teams triumph

The women's side recorded an impressive 54-4 win over France in Carcasonne, and England Knights - the feeder team for the seniors - defeated Papua New Guinea 16-12 in the first of their two matches against the Pacific island side.

Leeds's Liam Sutcliffe, Warrington's Tom Lineham and Wigan's Tom Davies all went over for England and Dec Patton kicked over two conversions.

England: Lomax, McGillvary, Gildart, Percival, Makinson, Williams, Myler, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, G. Burgess, T. Burgess, Bateman, Clark, Connor, O'Loughlin, Thompson, Tomkins.

New Zealand: Watene-Zelezniak, Maumalo, Marsters, Manu, Rapana, Johnson, Nikorima, J Bromwich, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Proctor, Liu, Fisher-Harris, K Bromwich, Ah Mau, Taupau, Blair, Hughes, Tapine.


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