England v New Zealand – James Graham looking for that ‘magical’ Anfield moment’

James Graham.
James Graham.
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ACTING England captain James Graham knows tomorrow’s second Test could be decided by another solitary “moment of magic” and is adamant his side have the players to deliver it.

People are still talking about Oliver Gildart’s debut try a week after the Wigan Warriors centre’s amazing debut score edged England to an 18-16 victory over New Zealand.

The sides reconvene at Anfield for the second instalment of the three-Test series with everything still finely balanced.

READ MORE – Daryl Clark hoping to make it third time lucky at Anfield

Veteran prop Graham – who stands in as captain for injured Sean O’Loughlin – admitted: “It could come down to one moment again. Whether it’s a moment of magic or a piece of skill, or great defence, we’ll see.

“Most tight games of rugby league do come down to that so Sunday should be no different.

It could come down to one moment again. Whether it’s a moment of magic or a piece of skill, or great defence, we’ll see. Most tight games of rugby league do come down to that

England cxaptain James, Graham.

“There’s a win next to our name from last week, but make no mistake, New Zealand played well. I’m imagining they are going to be better, though, and we’ll have to go up again, too.”

Gildart only turned 22 in August, was not even in coach Wayne Bennett’s original 24-man squad nor even the England Performance Squad, but instead scheduled to tour Papua New Guinea with England Knights.

However, after an impressive display in Wigan’s Grand Final success, he was surprisingly named as injured Sam Burgess’s replacement for the autumn squad and was then catapulted straight into the first Test mainly on the back of his defensive steeliness.

READ MORE - England coach Bennett convinced better still to come from players

Yet Gildart produced a stunning 50m solo try to break the Kiwis at the crucial juncture.

“He’s a pretty quiet lad and he’s not letting it get to his head,” insisted Graham.

“That will live with him forever that try. But does he want to be the kind of guy that has one or two caps and one bit of magic? Or does he want to be the guy that holds the centre spot down for the next decade? I’m pretty confident it’s the latter.”

St George Illawarra Dragons star Graham is England’s most-capped player and will increase his record number of appearances to 43 tomorrow.

He has captained his country before, including just last month against France when Wigan captain O’Loughlin was resting after that Grand Final success.

Liverpool-born Graham now gets to lead England out in his home city against foes he faces week in, week out in the NRL.

But the Everton fan added: “It’s probably more disappointment than anything, in terms of losing Sean. I saw what he went through last year when he missed the World Cup final (through injury).

“He came back and captained Wigan to a Grand Final win and has been pretty healthy throughout the year.

“I’m hugely disappointed for him, but I’ve got to stand up and take this role on, and concentrate on doing my job for the team.

“I’ve never played at Anfield but hopefully we can get a new audience in. It might be the first time some witness RL live. Hopefully they get involved and get a season ticket at St Helens, Warrington, Wigan, Widnes...”