A rousing second-half comeback from the New Zealand Maori earned them an 18-18 draw with England in a thrilling international rugby league match at Auckland today.
England sped away to an 18-0 halftime lead as they capitalised on a plethora of missed tackles from the Maori to score tries through centre Ryan Atkins, impressive halfback Sam Tomkins and backrower Sean O'Loughlin.
The visitors were error-prone at times but with their big forward pack and hard-running backs, they caused the Maori plenty of problems and could have been up by a bigger margin.
But the Maori improved defensively and, with a greater share of possession, they regularly found gaps in the second half, which would have been concerning for England ahead of their Four Nations opening against New Zealand in Wellington next Saturday.
A burst from standoff AJ Taumata down the right wing set up their first try to backrower Bodene Thompson, and they were back in the match with 20 minutes to go when Warriors hooker Aaron Heremaia collected a Rangi Chase grubber close to the line to score next to the posts, closing the gap to 10-18.
They scored a controversial third try with 10 minutes remaining, Rangi Chase chasing and regathering a first tackle kick from deep in his own half and scoring the try himself two passes later, but replays showed he was in front of the kicker.
A Kevin Locke penalty in the dying stages levelled the scores as both teams had to settle for a draw.
New Zealand Maori 18 (Bodene Thompson, Aaron Heremaia, Rangi Chase tries; Kevin Locke 3 goals) England 18 (Ryan Atkins, Sam Tomkins, Sean O'Loughlin tries; Gareth Widdop 3 goals). Halftime: 0-18.