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England seal series victory

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England beat New Zealand 20-14 at Anfield this afternoon to seal a series victory over the visiting Kiwis with St Helens flying winger Tommy Makinson scoring an impressive hat-trick in just his third international appearance.

The game was in the balance at half-time with the teams level with six points apiece after a Jake Connor penalty and an uncoverted Makinson try were matched by New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s try and Shaun Johnson’s conversion. A Watene-Zelezniak break led to a Ken Maumolo score, the centre able to run the ball in with ease and, after Johnson scored a second conversion and followed it up with a penalty goal, the Kiwis led 14-6 with half an hour remaining.

Then, the England left edge took over. Hitting back as they aimed to close down New Zealand’s lead, the ball made it’s way cross field and, after Jonny Lomax’s pass to Jake Connor in the centres, the Hull FC man produced a sublime tip along to send Makinson in from yards out. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful but it wouldn’t be long before England built on Makinson’s second and tied the game. Quick thinking from hooker Josh Hodgson at dummy half saw the Canberra man play from dummy half yards from the line, giving Raiders teammate Elliott Whitehead the ball and, when the back rower provided Connor with the ball, England’s number three was over in the corner.

Another unsuccessful conversion attempt left the score level and it remained that way until the 73rd minute. That was when Makinson scored the try of the match, a try which proved to be the gamebreaker. After Lomax ran wide with the ball and threw wider to Connor, the move seemed to break down after the centre’s pass to Makinson was behind him, seemingly stopping the momentum. However, the Saints winger had other ideas. Seeing a gap open up, he demonstrated lightning speed to seize the opportunity, sidestepping and weaving through the Kiwis defence. Despite the tackles thrown at him, the 27-year-old reached the line and, after referee Gerard Sutton referred the score to the video official, the try was confirmed.

With that – and after Sam Tomkins’ successful conversion – the match was won and, with it, the series. With a game to spare, Wayne Bennett’s England team have triumphed over Michael Maguire’s Kiwis and, with the Baskerville Shield secured, the teams will go to Leeds and Elland Road next Sunday with England aiming for a series whitewash while New Zealand will be driven to avoid that unwanted feat.

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WATCH: Kiwis visit Liverpool FC – and their coach is impressed

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At a time when rugby league fans are all too keen to highlight the lack of marketing and attention paid to the sport, New Zealand’s touring team visited Liverpool Football Club’s Melwood training facility and drew a fair amount of attention.

After visiting the football club’s complex in 2015 and 2016, the Kiwis made a third trip to Melwood and rubbed shoulders with some of the top professional footballers in the world after a training session. Then, in the canteen, the Liverpool players and staff saw first hand one of the most impressive sights in sport – the Haka. Filmed and posted on the club’s official social media channels, the clip of the Kiwis performing the Maori ritual has drawn big attention. Solely on Instagram, the original posting has been viewed in excess of 600,000 times with many more impressions across other social media accounts.

Of course, this may not attract more people to Anfield for this Sunday’s test between the Kiwis and England and the video didn’t show any actual rugby league. However, the engagement of such a huge sporting team in the shape of Liverpool shows that there is a scope for increased attention in the sport if done correctly. Indeed, the Merseyside club’s head coach Jurgen Klopp spoke of the impact the Kiwis made on their visit. “It was great,” Klopp told the media. “They are a bunch of real sports guys, I think it’s the third time now that we’ve had the opportunity to host them.” Adding that he and the club are keen to learn from other sports and teams where possible, Klopp suggested that he may well tune in on Sunday to catch some of the match. I’m interested in it actually. Obviously the sport is quite different but it’s still interesting to talk and have a chat. I enjoyed it a lot.”

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international

Maguire names unchanged team for first test

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New Zealand head coach Michael Maguire has named the same seventeen who defeated Australia in such impressive fashion ahead of his team’s first test of three against England this Saturday in Hull.

That victory – just short of two weeks ago – saw Penrith’s flying full-back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak play his first match since being named captain of the Kiwis and he will be keen to impress in Hull on Saturday. He will wear the number one jersey while Ken Maumalo and Jordan Rapana will start as wingers, the pair scoring the first and last try for New Zealand against Australia. Joseph Manu will make his second test start in the centres after impressing on debut last time out while his fellow centre Leeson Ah Mau will make his third appearance – as will Maumalo.

Arguably the Kiwis most high-profile player, much of their success this autumn will depend on the performances of their talismanic half-back Shaun Johnson. The 28-year-old broke English hearts in the World Cup semi final five years ago, his last minute try at Wembley giving New Zealand a 20-18 victory over the hosts. Lining up alongside the man known as ‘Magic’ will be the NZ Warriors’ Kodi Nikorima with the pivot set to make his tenth test appearance for the Kiwis.

In the pack, the experienced and imposing Jesse Bromwich starts in the front row and, alongside second rower Kevin Proctor, continue their re-introduction to the test arena after being banned for cocaine use and missing last year’s World Cup. Brandon Smith is another set to make his second appearance for his country and, having scored on debut against the Kangaroos, the hooker will go into the game with confidence. Gigantic prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves completes the starting front row for Maguire’s men while Isaac Liu joins Proctor in the second row. Penrith’s James Fisher-Harris will wear the number thirteen jersey.

The second Bromwich brother, Kenny, is joined by Leeson Ah Mau, Martin Taupau – linked recently with Super League’s Leeds Rhinos – and Adam Blair as interchanges while Melbourne’s Jahrome Hughes and Canberra’s Joseph Tapine have been named on an extended bench, two of whom will drop out ahead of the match.

 

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Bennett names nineteen man squad for first test

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England head coach Wayne Bennett has named his nineteen man squad for Saturday’s first test match against New Zealand at Hull FC’s KCOM Stadium – with two notable absentees.

Despite scoring a debut hat trick for his national team last week, Wakefield Trinity’s Tom Johnstone misses out as Australian Bennett instead opted for Tommy Makinson as his second winger, the St Helens man set to line up on the opposite flank to Jermaine McGillvary. Stefan Ratchford, the man of the match in this year’s Super League Grand Final, has also been left out of the nineteen. The Warrington full-back started the Denver test against the same opponents in June but has been left out, leaving Sam Tomkins and Jonny Lomax as the full-back options for the first test. Monday saw Bennett suggest that Lomax is likely to start the match in the number one jersey.

Johnstone’s Wakefield teammate Reece Lyne – formerly of Hull FC – is another to not be selected. Richie Myler, a late call up following the withdrawal of 2017 Man of Steel Luke Gale due to injury, has been included in the nineteen but Castleford’s Adam Milner has missed out. Jake Connor is the sole Hull FC representative in the provisional squad and, if selected in the matchday seventeen, will make his third England appearance at his home ground.