Lance Hohaia showed he can plug the gap caused by the departure of Stacey Jones as he helped New Zealand save face against a battling young England side at Warrington with a 30-22 win.
The 22-year-old Hohaia, used as hooker in the Kiwis? opening Tri-Nations win in Sydney, was impressive at scrum-half on his return from an ankle injury, scoring one try and setting up two others with perfectly-judged kicks.
The versatile half-back also kicked three goals from five attempts but, worryingly for the tourists, limped off after scoring the match-clinching try in injury time.
Captain Ali Lauitiiti, the Leeds second-rower, was also limping afterwards but, injury permitting, both men will line up against Great Britain at Huddersfield on Saturday, with man of the match Hohaia filling the boots of Jones.
New Zealand, fielding 12 players who have appeared in the Kiwis? opening three Tri-Nations matches, were pushed all the way by a gallant England side who played their part in an entertaining match in front of a 7,298 crowd at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Two-try winger Mark Calderwood and prop Eorl Crabtree, who was outstanding in England?s 22-12 win over France last month, provided useful reminders of their ability to the watching Great Britain coach Brian Noble as he ponders his team for the rest of the Tri-Nations.
Calderwood struck after only five minutes, racing onto a grubber kick from captain Chris Thorman and beating Manu Vatuvei to the touch.
Vatuvei made amends when he caught Hohaia?s high kick to score an equalising try after 16 minutes, taking advantage of the absence of Calderwood, who was still upfield recovering from a knock.
The Leeds flier was quickly back in the action, however, popping up on the left wing to take Paul Sykes? final pass and beat full-back Henry Fa?afili on the outside to finish off the best move of the first half.
The tourists edged in front when Bradford centre Shontayne Hape crossed wide out for the Kiwis? second try seven minutes before half-time but Thorman?s penalty levelled the scores at 12-12.
When right winger Jake Webster pounced on Hohaia?s kick to the corner, New Zealand led 16-12 but Thorman threatened to win the match on his own for England with two clever pieces of play.
His pin-point kick to the corner set up the position for winger David Hodgson to cross and three minutes later his delicate flicked pass got Crabtree romping over with the aid of neat sidestep past Fa?afili.
But Fa?afili took advantage of an offload by loose forward Bronson Harrison to score his side?s fourth try and the Kiwis were back in front three minutes later when Paul Whaturia seized on a defensive mix-up between Thorman and Lee Radford.
Fittingly, Hohaia came up with the last touch, forcing his way over for the final try of the match.
England 22 (Calderwood 2, Hodgson, and Crabtree tries, Thorman 3 goals) lost to New Zealand 30 (Vatuvai, Hape, Webster, Fa'afili, Whatuira, and Hohaia tries, Hohaia 3 goals).
England: Mathers, Calderwood, Sykes, Westwood, Hodgson, Thorman, Robinson, Crabtree, Alker, Wood, Wild, Radford, Wilkin. Replacements: Jones-Buchanan, Reardon, Griffin, Lynch.
New Zealand: Fa'afili, Webster, Whatuira, Hape, Vatuvei, Tony, Hohaia, Paleaaesina, Faiumu, Puletua, Anderson, Lauitiitii, Harrison. Replacements: Paul, J. Vagana, Poching, Pritchard.
Referee: Jason Robinson (Australia) Crowd: 7,950
- - - - -Like