COMMENT

One day in the future, when league scribes look back on Kodi Nikorima's career, they might mark down November 11, 2018, as a turning point.

On a sunny autumn afternoon at Elland Road in Leeds, Nikorima came of age as an international footballer in the Kiwis' 34-0 victory over England.

He was a class above, especially in the first half, when his vision, guile, and elusiveness helped turn the game in the visitors' favour.

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Nikorima set up the Kiwis second, fourth and fifth tries, and started and finished the third himself.

And for Kiwis fans with long memories, there were some strong parallels with the last time they had played at the famous home of Leeds United, back in 2005.

Not only had the Kiwis enjoyed a similar shock scoreline, with a 24-0 drubbing of Australia in 2005, but their No 7 put on a show, just like Stacey Jones 13 years ago.

Sure, Jones' performance came at the end of a glittering career, with the stakes much higher (Tri Nations final), while Nikorima is only starting his Kiwis journey and Monday's game had little on the line.

But Nikorima's movement and deception to set up Issac Liu for the Kiwis' second try was Jones-esque, especially with how he drew players in to create the space.

The way he wriggled under defenders, broke free, then backed up Shaun Johnson to score the Kiwis' decisive third try was also similar to style to the 'Little General'.

And his kick for Ken Maumalo to dot down early in second half felt like a carbon copy of a try Jones created for Manu Vatuvei in that 2005 game; same corner, same placement, same precise bomb, same prodigious leap and same result.

The icing on the cake was another swerve and flat ball, to lay on Jesse Bromwich's try.

Nikorima was solid in the previous two tests, and sparked most of the Kiwis best attacking moments across the games in Hull and Liverpool, but, along with halves partner Johnson, was unable to manage those games when it mattered most.

They were edged by George Williams and Sam Tomkins, who were admittedly playing behind a pack with the wind in their sails. Once the Kiwis got the ascendancy in the forwards in the third test, it was a different story.

Nikorima has always been a talent, ever since he burst on to the scene in the Holden Cup (under-20s) in 2014.

He's still only 24, but already has four seasons of NRL behind him.

He had ups and downs at the Broncos this season but has enjoyed his best year by far in a Kiwis jersey, right from the moment ahead of the Denver expedition when coach Michael Maguire pulled him aside, encouraging the Christchurch-born player to become a senior player in the group.

Nikorima has barely put a foot wrong in the five tests since then, and was key to the two impressive Kiwis wins in 2018.

Nikorima has impressed new Kiwis coach Michael Maguire. Photo / Photosport
Nikorima has impressed new Kiwis coach Michael Maguire. Photo / Photosport

"He's really improved," said Maguire.

"I remember catching up with Kodi about six months ago – I had a coffee with him and I was really impressed then. I feel that he is growing now, and I have sort of known him over the last six weeks. He is going to be a strong leader, if he keeps progressing the way he is going."