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Rusty New Zealand hold out erratic England
New Zealand have withheld a brief second half England comeback to register a 24-10 victory in their Four Nations opener at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.
The Kiwis dominated possession and held an 18-0 lead early in the second half before two quick back-to-back English tries had the home side under pressure at 18-10 with a quarter of the game remaining.
But New Zealand regained their focus - skipper Benji Marshall turned on the razzle dazzle to create space for winger Jason Nightingale and then finish in the corner, putting the game out of England's reach in the 66th minute.
In what is becoming typical fashion, England showed glimpses of promise but were left to rue mistakes and inconsistency across the eighty minutes. The Kiwis appeared to expose frail fringe defence at will and could have scored more points if not for errors of their own.
New Zealand utilised their speed and agility in the forwards to great effect and, at stages, were simply brutal in defence. They also played the majority of the match without Manu Vatuvei, who is likely to miss the remainder of the Four Nations after leaving the field in the fourth minute with a fractured forearm.
The Kiwis opened the scoring in style when hooker Thomas Leuluai found Junior Sau unmarked out wide. The centre, stationed on the wing in Vatuvei's absence, crashed over in Beast-like fashion.
England, who were starved of possession - at one stage late in the first half it read 62%/38% to New Zealand - managed to hold their own until moments before the break when a Marshall inspired raid saw Jason Nightingale link with Lance Hohaia under the posts. Marshall's conversion gave a 12-nil lead.
The Kiwis then stretched their advantage to 18-nil thanks to a rampaging solo effort from Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall in the 44th minute and it looked as if a thrashing was on the cards.
But England had other ideas - a stunning two try burst revived their hopes.
Hooker James Roby pounced on his own grubber before a creative 80 metre effort, started by Michael Shenton and finished by Gareth Widdop, reduced the deficit to 18-10 with 20 minutes remaining.
England nearly crossed again, five-eighth Kevin Brown grounded the ball but was denied by the video referee after illegally pushing Kiwi Greg Eastwood in the contest.
The close call seemed to shake New Zealand from their slumber and Marshall put the game to bed when he linked with Nightingale before stepping to the corner in the 66th minute.
New Zealand have a week to recover before their clash against Papua New Guinea at Rotorua, while England take on the might of Australia in a blockbuster at Melbourne's AAMI Stadium next Sunday, 6:30pm (AEDT).
New Zealand 24 defeated England 10
International - Four Nations: Week One - Saturday October 23, 2010 6:00pm
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ
Referee: Tony Archer (AU)
Video Referee: Bill Harrigan (AU) and David Pakieto (NZ)
Touch Judges: Paul Holland (AU) and Daniel Caddy (NZ)
Halftime: New Zealand 12 England 0
New Zealand (24)
Tries: Lance Hohaia, Junior Sau, Benji Marshall, Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Conversions: Benji Marshall (3/4)
Penalty Goals: Benji Marshall (1/1)
Tries: James Roby, Gareth Widdop
Conversions: Gareth Widdop (1/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Welcome to Westpac Stadium at Wellington for the Four Nations opener between New Zealand and England.
Coming into this game off a 50-6 thrashing of Samoa, the Kiwis are favourites but the English can't be discounted with the likes of Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis in the backrow.
Both sides wearing old school jerseys tonight, the Kiwis in a pure black strip with white collar, while England have a red and white striped number. Love the retro jerseys!
Half a full house here and, as one fan's sign points out it's "Time for the Beast to feast". It is about dinner time after all..
England's anthem performed in operatic fashion. Forget about saving the Queen, it might be a case of "God save the English rugby league side" tonight.
1 min: Kick off! England get first use of the ball..
2 min: The English forwards making some inspired charges up the middle, promising signs early.
3 min: Manu Vatuvei leaving the field with his arm hanging limply by his side, big blow early for NZ.
3 min: TRY
New Zealand TRY
The Kiwis get first attacking opportunity and do it in style, with Thomas Leuluai throwing a great cut out on the last to Junior Sau on the wing. Benji Marshall misses from the sideline.
New Zealand 4-0
8 min: The Kiwis go down the short side but kick out on the full, they already look dangerous though and England have compounded things by making an error on the next set.
9 min: Video referee - possible New Zealand try..
9 min: NO TRY!
Shaun Kenny-Dowall is held up but golly England's defence looks weak out wide..
11 min: The Poms make a meal of the ball at dummy half, fumbling backwards twice before the Kiwis dive on the ball.
14 min: New Zealand with a mistake now, Marshall gets too offload happy and throws it out the back to a Pom.
15 min: Gareth Widdop does very well to sneak out of the ingoal for England.
16 min: England fail to get a kick away on the last, surely they've made every ffundamental mistake in the book by now..
17 min: PENALTY GOAL
New Zealand PENALTY GOAL
Benji Marshall slots an extra two after an infringement in the play the ball.
New Zealand 6-0
22 min: Some nice offloading from England is all undone by a simple dropped ball from Sam Burgess. England's completion rate is at 50%, not good enough at this level.
23 min: Junior Sau looks to have scored a double in the corner but the final pass from Simon Mannering is correctly ruled forward.
26 min: An exciting passage there! Bronson Harrison surges through a gap but his support can't field the pass, it's picked up by Briscoe, who launches a counter attack of his own.
27 min: New Zealand pressing on the English goal line but some great defence drags Pritchard down.
30 min: Possession: ENG: 32% ; NZ 68%
32 min: Nathan Fien finds touch and despite their mistakes and lack of possession England have done well to stay in the game.
34 min: TRY
New Zealand TRY
Stunning play from the Kiwis! A Nuuausala offload sends Benji Marshall across field, before he turns it back inside to a flying Jason Nightingale, who breaks the line and then finds Lance Hohaia under the posts in support. Marshall converts.
New Zealand 12-0
38 min: England make a break but winger Shenton is dragged down from behind, on the next play Kevin Brown goes close to scoring but loses the ball.
39 min: Issac Luke breaks through now for New Zealand but is cut down in a classic tackle from Widdop at the back.
Halftime: New Zealand have dominated possession but England have done quite well to only concede two tries - that late break to Shenton will give them some hope in the second half. Desperately the need first try though..
41 min: Underway again! England kick off
42 min: New Zealand make a mistake, England get penalised for an obstruction, punters put more money on Australia to win the Four Nations..
44 min: TRY
New Zealand TRY
Amazing solo effort from Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who simply strides straight through the heart of the English defence, steps and stretches out to score. Marshall converts.
New Zealand 18-0
47 min: Frank Pritchard makes a break out wide and New Zealand earn a repeat set, the English defence out wide is so ordinary - they're constantly retreating.
50 min: We can report that Manu Vatuvei has suffered a fractured forearm, no word on how long he'll be out but I'd say he won't be back this year.
55 min: England again run it on the last with no result, but the Kiwis fumble and give the opposition another chance to attack their line.
56 min: Video referee - possible England try.
56 min: TRY
A four-pointer comes from nowhere for England through hooker James Roby, who grubbers ahead and regathers after a rebound off the posts. Gareth Widdop converts.
New Zealand 18-6
58 min: TRY
England go back-to-back!! An 80 metre effort was started by a break from Shenton, who draws the fullback before passing to Kevin Brown. He doesn't have enough pace and finds Gareth Widdop in support. Widdop misses the conversion.
New Zealand 18-10
60 min: Game on here! England making easy metres now but Kevin Brown kicks out on the full.. what a roller coaster of emotion for England fans..
62 min: Shaun Kenny-Dowall flattens Sam Tomkins with a shoulder charge forcing a mistake.
64 min: Gareth Ellis gets revenge for his team mate, with a strong tackle on Kenny-Dowall.
65 min: Video referee - possible England try..
65 min: NO TRY!
England five-eighth Kevin Brown is ruled to have pushed Greg Eastwood in the contest for the ball, fair call - Brown used his arms. Unfortunate for the Poms, as Brown grounded the ball.
66 min: Video referee - possible New Zealand try..
66 min: TRY
New Zealand TRY
The Kiwis awake from their slumber and turn on the razzle dazzle. Benji Marshall scores in the corner after setting up a line break for Nightingale. Marshall converts.
New Zealand 24-10
69 min: England try to sneak another grubber through but the Kiwis recieve the ball.
71 min: Gareth Widdop pokes his nose out the other side of the defence but flicks a pass forward.
72 min: New Zealand muscling up in defence and making territory without the ball.
74 min: Luke Robinson intercepts and pushes away two chasers before stumbling 10 metres from the line. Without sounding cruel, his little legs just couldn't carry him fast enough..
78 min: Tomkins attempts a chip but it barely makes it off the ground.
Fulltime: New Zealand have registered a fairly comprehensive 24-10 win over England, who mounted a brief second half comeback but couldn't sustain the momentum.