England head coach Wayne Bennett has hailed his side as “outstanding” after they began their Test series with victory over New Zealand.
England prevailed 18-16 at the KCOM Stadium with a superb second-half solo try from international debutant Oliver Gildart seeing them come from behind to secure the victory.
Bennett was full of praise for his side and in particular that had recently come into the group following injuries to a number of key players.
“They’re certainly developing as a group, there’s no doubt about that,” said the England coach. “We’ve got so many players out from last year’s World Cup, so that’s what made this effort so remarkable from my point of view.”
“I think that we had about 10 players missing from that final in Australia last year. We’re building some depth and that’s what we need to have a good squad. The guys today were outstanding.”
“New Zealand can’t come at us much harder than they did today and it was a great test match. We played Australia in the final next year and lost 6-0 in a great game. These are the standards of test football and I thought New Zealand were tremendous today, neither side could have given more.”
“This team are proud and we asked them to give their absolute best today and that’s what they did. If we can continue to put that amount of effort in and play that type of football, they’ll be people wanting to watch us.”
Match-winner Gildart also came in for special mentioning with Bennett expressing his delight that the Wigan star had proven his doubters wrong.
“I enjoyed it (Gildart’s try) for those that thought he (Gildart) shouldn’t be here,” added Bennett. “It was magnificent for all of us and it’s what we love football.”
“A 50-metre run, beating a couple of guys on the way and that’s why we love it, why we do it and why we want people to watch it.”
“We needed to get through this game and we’ll be better for playing this game. We can play a lot better in the halves than we did today but Sam (Tomkins) did a good job at the same time. I was really pleased with George (Williams), he was involved all of the time today and he’s a very skilful player.”