venue: Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield
7th November 2009
Full Match Report
GILLETTE FOUR NATIONS MATCH
England will meet Australia in the final of the Four Nations next Saturday after showing great heart to beat New Zealand in a bruising and engrossing match at the Galpharm Stadium.
The lively Kyle Eastmond put England ahead after a Kevin Sinfield break but New Zealand drew level through a Bryce Goodwin try and penalty.
Peter Fox, making his return to the England team, scored two tries before the break as the home team built an 18-6 lead.
A converted Ben Matulino score shortly after the restart made it 18-12 and there were no further additions to the scoreboard until a Kevin Sinfield penalty in the 73rd minute.
England maintained the commitment and desire they had shown throughout the second half to close out the last few minutes and go some way towards avenging their two losses to the Kiwis at last year's World Cup.
But more importantly the result ensures England have another chance to beat the Australians in next Saturday's final at Elland Road.
England scored 16 unanswered points in the second half against the Kangaroos at Wigan last week, but their atrocious first-half showing had already cost them the game.
The world champion Kiwis came into this match on the back of a draw with the Kangaroos and a win over France in their two previous games.
But Stephen Kearney's physically imposing side were more than matched up front in Huddersfield, while England's inexperienced half-back pairing of Eastmond and Sam Tomkins hinted at a bright future for the national team.
During the week Smith had talked about the importance of making an immediate impact after their sluggish starts in the previous games against France and Australia.
And it was England who scored first, controlling the opening 10 minutes before running in a well-constructed try on 10 minutes.
Man-of-the-match Sinfield, who started at hooker in a late change to the initial line-up, ran from dummy half before sending Sam Burgess through with a delayed pass.
The NRL-bound forward in turn slipped an inside ball for Eastmond to cross under the posts.
England threatened again after Lance Hohaia spilled the first of a series of high kicks directed at him, but Sinfield knocked-on as he scrambled to collect the loose ball.
The Kiwis translated their first good attacking position into points, quickly working the ball out to the right and stretching the England defence as a long pass from Hohaia was collected by debutant centre Kieran Foran, who slipped the ball to Goodwin to score.
Goodwin missed the conversion but levelled the scores with a penalty after Eorl Crabtree was penalised for holding down.
An already extremely physical match grew increasingly fractious, with Tomkins and Benji Marshall squaring up while Fox and Goodwin also exchanged words.
But after an even period of play, it was England who took the contest by the scruff of the neck before half time with a period of enterprising attacking rugby that yielded 12 points.
First a superb cross-field kick from the slippery Tomkins eluded Goodwin and was touched down by Fox, with Sinfield converting superbly.
Eastmond and Chris Bridge then combined in a set move from a scrum to send Fox clear for his second try, with the conversion putting England 18-6 up at the break.
New Zealand responded within minutes of the restart, capitalising on a gaping hole in the left side of England's defence - Isaac Luke made the initial break and Matulino scored out out wide.
It was the last thing England needed so early in the half, but their play was nothing if not full of fight and desire.
Sinfield had the Kiwis scrambling after a half-break while a promising move out to the left stretched the visitors' defence but was let down by a poor final pass.
With a place in the final at stake, the match became increasingly tense and the scoreline remained unchanged until the last 10 minutes.
Both teams had periods were they prodded and probed the opposing defence, but after the Kiwis were penalised for holding down right under the posts, Sinfield scored a penalty.
From that point, England held on for a famous victory.
S Briscoe, Fox, Bridge, Shenton, Hall; Tomkins, Eastmond; Morley, Sinfield, Graham; Peacock (c), Ellis, Burgess. Replacements: Roby, Crabtree, Westwood, Wilkin.
Hohaia, Perrett, Foran, Sau, Goodwin; Marshall (capt), Fien Nuuausala, Leuluai, Moimoi, Soliola, Pritchard, Blair. Substitutes: Luke , Lima , Matulino, Waerea-Hargreaves