England 2 New Zealand 9: Kiwis set up series decider

England's James Graham fails to ground the ball and a try is not given.
England's James Graham fails to ground the ball and a try is not given.
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The Test series will go to a decider in Wigan next Saturday after New Zealand hit back to beat England 9-2 at the Olympic Stadium.

It was a deserved win for the Kiwis, who improved massively from their 26-12 defeat in the opening game in Hull and were the better side throughout.

Hooker Issac Luke ran the show from acting-half and there was a strong effort in the pack by Tohu Harris.

England defended well, but were poor on attack, though they might have salvaged a draw but for a controversial decision by the video referees in the final 10 minutes.

Halves Gareth Widdop and George Williams failed to spark and England's outside-backs were starved of quality ball.

England were unchanged from the first Test win six days earlier. Kodi Nikorima – a substitute last week - came in at scrum-half for the Kiwis, in place of Tuimoala Lolohea. Lewis Brown and Alex Glenn were called up on the bench, with Sio Siva Taikeiaho dropping out.

Defences were on top throughout the first half, which ended with the scores locked at 2-2.

Widdop booted England ahead with a seventh minute penalty and Luke levelled in similar fashion five minutes later.

New Zealand did most of the pressing, but England's outstanding goalline defence kept them out and both sides' kicking let them down when they got in good field position.

Leeds Rhinos centre Kallum Watkins put in big hits on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ben Matulino and it took an outstanding effort by Liam Farrell to stop Kevin Proctor charging over.

Jordan Kahu cut through on a diagonal run, but Joe Burgess knocked his pass – aimed toward Jordan Nightingale – into touch and Pita Hiku would have scored after a one-two with Tohu Harris, but fumbled the final pass.

Thomas Burgess made an impact off the bench for England and almost got to James Roby's grubber kick, but Tuivasa-Sheck just managed to scoop the ball dead.

The stalemate lasted just 133 seconds into the second half. Nikorima ran the ball on the last and squeezed out and offload to Tohu Harris.

The big forward made a brilliant low pick up and got a pass away to Shaun Kenny-Dowall, whose touchdown was confirmed by video referees Phil Bentham and James Child.

With Luke off the field, Kahu took over kicking duties and landed a touchline goal to give the visitors an 8-2 lead.

With 18 minutes left Hiku stepped past Williams and forced his way over the line, but Brett Ferres managed to jar the ball loose and the video refs confirmed Gerald Sutton's initial decision of no try.

England had another escape with 12 minutes left when Luke missed a penalty from almost in front of the posts, which would have opened a two-score gap.

That could have been a crucial blunder. Four minutes later Chris Hill drove the ball in, Josh Hodgson kicked through from acting-half and James Graham seemed to have touched down.

Referee Sutton thought so, but after a long delay the video pair disagreed and the try was chalked off for a knocked-on.

In the next set Nikorima got over the line, for another video decision, but Elliott Whitehead's brilliant last-ditch tackle clearly forced the ball out.

The Kiwis did seal it with four minute left when Kahu landed a well-struck drop goal.

A crowd of 44,393 made the experiment of taking the game to the Olympic Stadium a success and next Saturday's decider at Wigan is already sold out.

England: Hardaker, J Burgess, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Widdop, Williams, Graham, Hodgson, Hill, Whitehead, Farrell, O'Loughlin. Subs Roby, T Burgess, Cooper, Ferres.

New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck, Nightingale, Kahu, Whare, Kenny-Dowall, Hiku, Nikorima, Bromwich, Luke, Moa, Proctor, Harris, Blair. Subs Brown, Taupau, Matulino, Glenn.

Referee: Gerald Sutton (Australia)

Attendance: 44,393.

Joel Moon.

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