League: Kiwis rediscover their mojo

By Michael Burgess in Huddersfield

The Kiwis are back, after their most convincing display in more than 18 months.

Sunday's 17-16 win over England was a crucial result, but equally important was the way it was achieved.

The New Zealand side rediscovered their attacking mojo, missing for the last few tests, and also had a harder edge to their defence.

But the most pleasing factor was their resilience, especially in the first 20 minutes when they repelled wave after wave of English attacks.

It the kind of resistance that their 2014 Four Nations triumph was built on, as well as the 26-12 Anzac test win a year later.

There were defensive heroes across the park, especially on the left edge where Thomas Leuluai, Solomone Kata and Jordan Rapana coped with some intense pressure. Jordan Kahu covered well at fullback - and took several towering bombs with aplomb - and Issac Luke's tackle on a runaway Jonny Lomax late in the game was a match saver.

The English started like a runaway train, imposing themselves with some physical play. Sam Burgess smashed Kevin Proctor in the third tackle of the match, Tohu Harris was driven back 10 metres soon afterwards and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves then lost the ball in a fierce Burgess tackle.

"That's what test matches are meant to be about," said Kidwell. "We had a bit of adversity there that we had to overcome [and] England started off like a house on fire. They came at us straight away and for us to get back in the game the way we did was wonderful effort from the boys."

The Kiwis maintained their composure - and kept their line intact - before gradually building into the game.

They were rewarded with Rapana's try, from a swift set play, with Kahu injecting himself into the backline to create the extra man.

In the second half the visitors took the game out of the game for long periods, as their forwards made big yardage through the middle and Johnson's kicking was on the mark.

The halfback broke the game open early in the second half with an 80m intercept try, though the Kiwis conceded soon afterwards to negate that advantage. But they stayed ahead in the second half, and Rapana's powerful second try was an exhibit of a man at the top of his game.

Possibly the most pleasing aspect was the way the Kiwis handled the last 15 minutes; hanging on to a one point lead, it was only desire that got them home, as the capacity crowd at John Smith's crowd roared England on.

There are things to work on, as the team still looked disorganized on attack at times, especially in the first half. And their inability to complete a set after scoring was almost very costly; twice in the second half they let England back in the match within a few minutes of edging ahead on the score line.

But the effort, the urgency and the desire could not be faulted. And that is always the basis of any great Kiwis side.

Thomas Leuluai is in some doubt for Sunday's clash with Australia, after leaving the field with a head knock in the 52nd minute. He will have scans over the next 48 hours, with rookie Te Maire Martin the logical option if he is ruled out.

Autex - Proud sponsors of New Zealand rugby league since 1981

- NZ Herald

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