England Claim Bragging Rights In Physical Encounter

A crowd of 20,000 gathered in Denver Colorado at Mile High Stadium to see England take on New Zealand in a game that Sam Burgess referred to after the match as "the most exhausting game I've ever played in".

The effects of the altitude on the game would be blatantly obvious from the word go, as New Zealand kicked out on the full from the kick off to give England a penalty on halfway, the White Wall unable to punish new Zealand for their error in the opening exchanges.

It would be New Zealand who would strike first, Kodi Nikorima shrugging Jonny Lomax off and racing through the line and drawing the attention of Stefan Ratchford, the Brisbane man then releasing the ball on the inside for debutant Esan Marsters to open the scoring, Isaako adding the extras to push New Zealand out to a 6-0 lead.

After 20 minutes a water break was called and the effects of both the heat and the altitude were clear to see, players on both sides hunched over desperately trying to  recover before the resumption of play.

England looked to have levelled the score just 4 minutes after the break, Tom Burgess using his fantastic reach to fend away from Isaac Luke, as two other defenders joined the tackle, the ball coming loose after contact with the turf in what was deemed to be short of the line, the video referee overturning the on-field decision of try.

New Zealand minutes later would add to their points total, Isaac Luke picking out the tired looking Tom Burgess and skipping away from him before releasing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score under the post to double the Kiwi's lead after 29 minutes of play, Isaako converting easily.

England would strike back in questionable fashion, a looping cut out pass from Jake Connor to Ryan Hall would see the freakish finisher dive one handed to score England's first try, replays would later show that Hall had lost the ball before grounding it despite the video referee checking, Widdop converted from the left wing to put England within six points.

On the stroke of halftime England would put themselves firmly back in the picture for the second 40, Jake Connor attacking the line before delivering a short ball at the line for Elliot Whitehead, Whitehead dragging a Kiwi player over the line with him from 10 metres out after showing great leg strength, Widdop unable to convert and New Zealand held a 12-10 lead at the break.

The first notable incident of the second half would be an unsavoury one, John Bateman catching Isaac Luke in the throat with his elbow as he spun to break free from a tackle, Luke then coming back to deliberately stand on Bateman's hand, Luke somehow escaping 10 minutes on the side lines for his malicious act. England taking the 2 points on offer to level the score from the resulting penalty.

England would take the lead for the first time in the game from some brilliant improvised play from Gareth Widdop, the England number 7 sliding the kick through the line for Makinson to fearlessly collect and offload before to Elliot Whitehead for his second try of the game, Makinson left in a heap on the floor after being clattered while getting the ball away, Widdop with an easy kick to push England out to an 18-12 lead.
New Zealand would kick out on the full from the kick off for the second time, Widdop opted to shoot for goal from 50 metres out, nailing the kick that looked like it had the legs to be hit from another 10-15 metres further out.

Love him or hate him, there was no doubting that Jake Connor had introduced himself on to the world stage in style, 2 try assists in the first half and finally a try of his own, the Hull utility bumping off a would-be tackler and racing through with support, Connor then dummying past Watene-Zalezniak to score on his debut Widdop on target with the boot to push England out to a 26-12 lead.

Another England debutant would put himself on the scoresheet 3 minutes later, Elliot Whitehead the fastest to react to a loose ball, the second rower racing downfield pursued by 3 New Zealand defenders, Whitehead releasing Makinson who stepped away from two players to score a try of his own,Widdop converting once more, 32-12

One of New Zealand's big performers on the day would finally be rewarded with a try, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak splitting England up the middle from 35 metres out, the Penrith man with too much pace, diving under the posts, Isaako with the easiest of kicks.

John Bateman would power over from dummy half 30 seconds from time to extend the winning margin, then a moment the Golden Lion will hope to forget on his 40th England appearance, James Graham given the kicking duties out to the left of the posts, Graham missing the kick and England leaving the US with a 36-18 win over New Zealand.


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