Leeds Rhinos ace Ryan Hall says England have set their sights on a revenge mission against New Zealand after suffering more last-minute heartbreak in Melbourne.
The tourists were a fingertip away from knocking Australia out of the 2014 Four Nations Series after Hall was denied a try 46 seconds from the end of a gripping encounter and their hosts clung on for a 16-12 victory in front of a 20,585 crowd at AAMI Park yesterday.
It leaves England two points behind the Kiwis and level with Australia, but they will secure a place in the Wellington final on November 15 – and a potential re-match with the Kangaroos – if they win by more than 10 points in Dunedin in their final round-robin game next Saturday.
It will be the first meeting between the sides since Shaun Johnson scored with 20 seconds left of the World Cup semi-final at Wembley last November and converted his own try to give the Kiwis a 20-18 victory.
“We owe the Kiwis a bit from last year,” Hall said. “I don’t want to bring it up too much but there is a bit of vengeance there.”
If England gain their revenge over the Kiwis, Australia will need to register a big win over Samoa in Wollongong 24 hours later to reach the final – but for now they are simply relieved to still be in contention.
Vulnerable after their opening 30-12 defeat to New Zealand, they were staring at their first back-to-back home defeats since 1970 when tries from Hall and his Leeds team-mate Kallum Watkins, both converted by Gareth Widdop, gave England a 12-4 half-time lead.
The game turned on the second-half introduction of Brisbane half-back Ben Hunt as Australia, who had opened the scoring with Michael Jennings’ 17th-minute try, hit back with two tries in seven minutes.
Hunt touched down captain Cameron Smith’s grubber kick within two minutes of going on for his debut and full-back Greg Inglis went over for his 25th Test try to restore his side’s lead.
It was still 16-12 with a minute to go when Hall chased Liam Farrell’s grubber kick to the corner and appeared to get a finger touch to the ball as Inglis struggled to clear the danger.
Australian referee Gerard Sutton handed the decision onto his namesake Bernard, the video official, who ruled that Hall had failed to find downward pressure and moments later the Kangaroos were celebrating a precious victory.
“Given that Gerard Sutton ruled it no try on the field I was pretty confident that it was going to stay that way but I must admit it was pretty close,” Smith said.
“I was looking at the screen at the long end of the field and it looked pretty close from there so I know it’s a tough decision to make.”
Both Smith and Australia coach Tim Sheens claimed in the post-match press conference that Hall’s failure to celebrate and the decision of his team-mates to line up to receive a goal-line drop-out was a firm indication that it was no try but England coach Steve McNamara felt his side were wrongly denied at least a draw.
“Maybe he should have got up and celebrated because his finger certainly looked as if it was applying some pressure to the ball whilst the ball was on the ground,” McNamara said.
“Ryan said he knew he’d touched it but he wasn’t sure whether it was on the ground when he touched it. That’s why he didn’t over-celebrate.”
Hall admitted he was unsure whether he had scored, adding: “I knew I’d got something on it but I wasn’t sure whether I grounded it or not so I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it because we wanted the ball back at least.
“Someone said that if it was Super League rules that would have been a try but we’re not in Super League are we?”