England were too strong for New Zealand in Denver today, coming back from an early 12-0 deficit to win 36-18, with impressive performances all round, but in particular from backrower Elliott Whitehead, halfback Gareth Widdop and debutants from the bench Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson.
The Kiwis took the lead on ten minutes through Esan Marsters after a Koki Nikorima break and they extended their lead on 28 minutes when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who was outstanding all night, went over from an assist by Issac Luke, with Jamayne Isaako converting both tries.
England had been unlucky to have a try for Tom Burgess ruled out by the video referee, but they gradually fought their way back into the match and tries by Ryan Hall and Elliott Whitehead, both coming from great passes by Connor, put them 10-12 behind at half-time.
Widdop levelled matters with a goal on 46 minutes, and they went ahead with Whitehead’s second try and gradually pulled away with another Widdop penalty and tries from Connor and Makinson to lead 32-12 on 65 minutes.
The Kiwis fought back when Watene-Zelezniak touched down but the final word went to England as John Bateman scored a smart try from dummy-half after Sam Burgess had gone near.
Tonight’s teams (debutants asterisked)
1. Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves)
2. Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants)
3. John Bateman (Wigan Warriors)
4. Mark Percival (St Helens)
5. Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos)
6. Jonny Lomax (St Helens)
7. Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra Dragons)
8. Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves)
9. James Roby (St Helens)
10. James Graham (St George Illawarra Dragons)
11. Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
12. Elliott Whitehead (Canberra Raiders, West Bowling) Caps: 15 (4 tries)
13. Sean O’Loughlin (c) (Wigan Warriors)
14. Jake Connor* (Hull FC)
15. Thomas Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
16. Tommy Makinson* (St Helens)
17. Scott Taylor (Hull FC)
Tries: Hall, Whitehead (2), Connor, Makinson, Bateman; Goals: Widdop 7
1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
2. Jamayne Isaako* (Brisbane Broncos)
3. Esan Marsters* (Wests Tigers)
4. Peta Hiku (New Zealand Warriors)
5. Ken Maumalo* (New Zealand Warriors)
6. Te Maire Martin (North Queensland Cowboys)
7. Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos)
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)
9. Issac Luke (New Zealand Warriors)
10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
11. James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)
12. Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
13. Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles)
14. Slade Griffin* (North Queensland Cowboys)
15. Raymond Faitala-Marriner* (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
16. Herman Ese’ese* (Newcastle Knights)
17. Leeson Ah Mau* (St George Illawarra Dragons
Tries: Marsters, Watene-Zelezniak 2; Goals: Isaako 3
A full report, photos and analysis from the Denver Test match will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express.