New Zealand 24-10 England

New Zealand proved too strong for England in the opening game of the Four Nations.

Despite spells of Kiwi dominance, the game could have been much different had a Kevin Brown try been given midway through the second half, when England were looking like completing an impressive fightback having been blitzed by their highly-fancied opposition in the first 50 minutes.

As it was, Brown’s score was chalked off by the video referee, citing a push on the slow turning Greg Eastwood, and New Zealand punished their opponents, sealing the 24-10 victory moments later, when star man Benji Marshall found the line in the corner.

After overcoming the early loss of Manu Vatuvei with an arm injury, New Zealand got themselves on the score board after just four minutes with their first foray in to England territory, creating space down the left for Junior Sa to cross.

A Marshall penalty edged the Kiwis out to 6-0, and they went on to dominate possession and field position during a first half in which England did well to hang on to their coat tails.

Some solid defence kept the deficit at six, but a second try was inevitable, and England were punished when they failed to move up on Marshall, who ran across the line and fired winger Jason Nightingale through a gap, and he in turn found supporting full back Lance Hohaia to cross by the side of the posts.

Such was the Kiwi’s dominance, England‘s only real chance in the first half came late on. Wigan loose forward Sean O’Loughlin surged through a gap and found the supporting Michael Shenton, but he was wrapped up and the chance was gone.

England needed to step up in the second half, and they had the early field position following a Kiwi knock-on, but as it was, an England knock-on led to the next score. A high speculative kick caused problems for England full back Gareth Widdop, and the Melbourne man spilled the ball, setting up the Kiwi’s with a scrum in excellent position.

From the back of the scrum, Shaun Kenny-Dowall shrugged off no fewer than three tackles to race the twenty metres and find the line. Marshall’s conversion put New Zealand 18-0 up, and left England with a lot to do.

But the tourists kept plugging away and they were rewarded when James Roby‘s kick bounced back off the post and in to his grasp, with the video referee confirming the score.

And moments later, England were right back in the match. Castleford centre Shenton put his foot down to surge through a gap down the right hand side, before releasing Kevin Brown on his shoulder and Widdop was on hand to finish the move. Unfortunately, Widdop’s disappointing conversion left England still needing two scores, a task which would prove too much.

England had the momentum, and next up came the gamebreaker. Sam Tomkins‘ chip through was chased by Brown, and he brushed off Eastwood to touch down and seemingly give England a real passage in to the match. But the video referee adjudged that Brown had illegally pushed the Canterbury-bound Leeds forward and it was scratched off.

To rub salt in the wounds, the Kiwi’s punished England in the next set of six, and Marshall’s try sealed what became a hard-fought win for New Zealand after a first half of dominance.

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