England 18-16 New Zealand: Oliver Gildart stars as England go one up in three-Test series
Last Updated: 27/10/18 4:48pm
Oliver Gildart's stunning second-half try, on his international debut, helped England to an 18-16 victory over New Zealand at the KCOM Stadium in Hull.
England were looking to build on their impressive World Cup but, for the opening match of this three-Test series, coach Wayne Bennett was able to select only seven players from the team that lost 6-0 to Australia in the final in Brisbane due to injuries and retirements.
Without a host of regulars, including Sam Burgess, Gareth Widdop and Kallum Watkins, Bennett handed a debut to centre Gildart and a recall to his Wigan team-mate Sam Tomkins, who was chosen to play at scrum-half.
New Zealand, fresh from a 26-24 win over the Kangaroos in Auckland, made a late change to their bench, bringing in second-rower Joseph Tapine in place of Adam Blair after he injured a knee in training.
England made the best possible start with a try from Tomkins after just two minutes.
However, the home side failed to build on it as the Kiwis came back strongly, equalising through centre Esan Marsters after half-backs Kodi Nikorima and Shaun Johnson opened up the England defence in ominously easy fashion.
New Zealand had a second try from winger Jordan Rapana disallowed by video referee Ben Thaler for a knock-on, but they went in front nine minutes before half-time when Nikorima made the running for full-back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score straight from a scrum 40 minutes out.
Johnson's second goal made it 12-6 but England, who were forced to re-organise after losing skipper Sean O'Loughlin and full-back Jonny Lomax to injury, drew level in dramatic fashion on the stroke of half-time.
Jake Connor forced his way over the line wide out and was adjudged to have been fouled in the act of scoring so referee Robert Hicks awarded a penalty try, which Connor converted to tie the scores at 12-12.
Johnson and Connor traded penalties in the third quarter before the former edged his side back in front after 61 minutes with a second penalty, awarded after Tom Burgess caught a ricochet ball in an offside position.
The pivotal moment came five minutes later when John Bateman squeezed out a pass on half-way to Gildart, who evaded the challenge of second-rower Isaac Liu and held off the chasers on a 40-metre dash to the line for a glorious try.
The score lifted both the crowd and the England players as they held on for a hard-fought victory that puts them 1-0 up in the series.