Kiwis go down to England in Liverpool

By James Perry

England's 20-14 victory at Anfield ensures they retain the Baskerville Shield with one game left in the series.

The game was not without controversy. English winger Tommy Makinson was awarded a try in the 73rd minute despite replays suggesting he may have lost control of the football. The try put the home side ahead with 5 minutes left in the game.

Midway through the second half English front-rower George Burgess appeared to eye-gouge Kiwis Captain Dallin Wātene-Zelezniak, although referee Gerard Sutton thought otherwise. There were numerous instances of shirt grabbing and minor scuffles throughout the game that saw Sutton issue multiple warnings to both captains. 

It was the Kiwis who got their heads into the game quickest, however, Wātene-Zelezniak spotted a gap in the English defense 10m out from the line to cross for the first try of the match.

The Kiwis were also creators of their own demise. With numerous handling errors, and ill-discipline costing them possession and territory. Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is disappointed with their handling, he says, "you can't win big games I guess when you throw the ball around like we did."  Coach Michael Maguire was left frustrated as well, particularly when so many errors came in their own half. "I think in the second half we made seven errors, I think six of those were coming out of yardage, so you put yourself on the try line," he said after the game.

A recurring nightmare for the coach is for the third game in a row the Kiwis allowed their opposition to score shortly before halftime. Having led for much of the first half, Makinson was given a free pass to the left corner with 2 minutes left in the half.

Waerea-Hargreaves said, "To let in a try like that definitely hurt. Sort of the same against the Aussies and similar to last week. Yeah, we'll address it, and move on for sure."

The Kiwis came out of the sheds at half time stronger than their opposition. Ken Maumalo scoring just after the break in the same corner Makinson did shortly before, after Kodi Nikorima wrong footed Josh Hodgson which put Wātene-Zelezniak into an open hole. 

There are concerns over the fitness of Jordan Rapana, who appeared to dislocate his shoulder while attempting to score a try in the first half. The Canberra Raiders flyer played on, however, the English exploited his injury, sending a lot of the play that way.  All four of England's tries cam on the left flank where Rapana was defending, with Makinson picking up three and centre Jake Connor crossing for one. 

Maguire wasn't too sure on the extent of the injury immediately after the match. He was quick to praise the English. "England to their credit capitalised on that space. They worked away and then they came back," he said.

With England having again retained the Baskerville Shield, the Kiwis will be hoping to avoid a series whitewash when they take the field at Elland Rd, Leeds for the third test next week.