MAN OF Steel Zak Hardaker was “thrilled” by England’s series-opening win over New Zealand last night.
England came from 10-0 down to beat New Zealand 26-12 in front of a 23,000 crowd at Hull’s KC Stadium.
Hardaker – one of three Leeds Rhinos players in the England team, alongside Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall – said: “It was a great event and a fantastic game and I was thrilled to be a part of it.”
The Kiwis dominated the opening exchanges, but England hit back to go in level at the break and did not concede a point in the second half.
“We started a bit slowly, but half an hour into the game I thought we picked our standards up and we started pressurising them and playing really well,” Hardaker reflected.
“Half-time was good for them and came at the wrong time for us, but we came out firing in the second half.
“That’s what we planned to do and we really powered on from there. We got a few good tries and I thought the middles and the forwards were fantastic. That’s where most of the tries went. They were fantastic last week against France and I thought they backed up from that.”
England’s second try came moments after the Kiwis had a touchdown, which would have given them a 16-6 lead with a kick to come, ruled out by the video referees for obstruction.
Hardaker said: “That’s been happening all year in Super League.
“It is a flip of a coin whether they give it or not, but in big games you need a bit of luck.
“Thankfully we had a bit of luck on our side and hopefully we get the rub of the green again next week.”
Victory for England in Saturday’s second Test at London’s Olympic Stadium would seal a series win with one game still to play.