A hat-trick for Tommy Makinson has helped England to produce a stirring comeback in front of 26,234 at Anfield, to defeat New Zealand 20-14 tonight.
An effort full of heart from England, they produced a response three times against the Kiwis, including a superb slicing effort from Makinson for his hat-trick. This saw them once again finish on top of a New Zealand side that has surrendered the Baskerville Shield with a whimper in a two-nil defeat. For England, there is a chance to sweep the series three-nil next weekend in Leeds. .
New Zealand will feel they were their own worst enemies in this contest. A constant stream of errors, especially straight after the break cruelled their chances, after they had crossed first through Dallin Watene-Zelezniak at the start of the game. Early in the second half they looked on course to level the series after a Shaun Johnson kick put them eight clear, following Ken Maumalo's 46th minute try.
England showed their guile, however, in their sprint to the finish. A pair of superb tries from Makinson and Jake Connor ignited the Anfield crowd, then they erupted when Makinson completed his hat-trick in the 73rd minute to put the host nation ahead 20-14.
Credit must go to the English defence, after a messy opening half hour they nullified the Kiwis attack, led by hooker Josh Hodgson, racking up 40 tackles in an 80 minute performance.
The signs looked promising from the visitors early. New Zealand looked much like the side that defeated Australia in October, creating second phase play and getting Johnson and captain Watene-Zelezniak creating the chances. It was the stylish fullback that finished off a slick back line movement for the first try of the afternoon.
Once they settled into their rhythm, England responded with a classy effort of their own. It was a connection between the Saints and Wigan, as premiership winner George Williams piloted the perfect pass to send across the Saints winger in Makinson which took us to 6-6 at the break.
New Zealand's fast start after the break had England coach Wayne Bennett concerned, no doubt. Watene-Zelezniak busted England up through the middle after some creative offloads, positioned Warriors winger Maumalo perfectly to touch down, and not long after, Johnson added a penalty goal to make it 14-6.
The England side were brought back to life by a terse exchange which saw Sam Tomkins felled late after getting a kick away. The ensuing melee lifted spirits across Anfield and lit the touch paper for the English comeback.
From the ensuing penalty, Makinson added a second try that almost mirrored his first effort, and suddenly England were within four then when Jake Connor spun across for their third four-pointer of the afternoon, the mood in Liverpool had turned to a boisterous cauldron that was bubbling behind the home side.
Headed into the final ten, both sides needed a spark. New Zealand were quickly running out of troops - and patience - after a slew of drop ball they simply couldn't find a way through. Enter the man of the hour, Tommy Makinson.
On a play that seemed to be going nowhere, Makinson hauled the ball in behind him, stepped inside before he made a charge towards the line and, despite the attentions of the Kiwi defence and the video referee examination that followed, slammed the ball down, as Anfield erupted.
England have produced another stunning performance, showing that International Rugby League has life left in it, as we start to count down to the next Rugby League World Cup in 2021. For now, they have a chance for a whitewash on home soil, heading to Leeds for the third test next weekend at Elland Road.