The Kiwis have failed in their first assignment under Michael Maguire, going down 36-18 to England in Denver.

It wasn't an entirely unexpected result, as the experience and organization of England was always going to be difficult to overcome for a raw Kiwis team, who were missing almost an entire starting lineup through injuries and unavailability.

But the manner of the defeat will be disappointing, as New Zealand gave up a 12-0 lead after 30 minutes.

After competing well in the first half, where they probably should have taken more of their chances, things got ragged in the last half hour.


The Kiwis started to make mistakes, and began to noticeably tire in hot conditions, where the mercury hovering near 30 degrees Celsius.

They also drifted from their game plan, perhaps expected with seven debutants and a young halves pairing.

New Zealand were their own worst enemies. They sent ball out on the full from the kickoff a staggering three times in the rarified air, and were on the wrong end of a lopsided penalty count.

There were some promising signs, with Esan Marsters and Raymond Faitala-Mariner prominent on debut, while Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was superb in the No 1 jersey.

 The New Zealand squad performs a haka prior to a Rugby League Test Match between England and the New Zealand Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images.
The New Zealand squad performs a haka prior to a Rugby League Test Match between England and the New Zealand Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images.

But the Kiwis forwards were dominated by a well drilled English pack, with Elliot Whitehead a standout.

The portents weren't good from the kickoff, when Issac Luke sent his kick metres over the dead ball line, handing instant initiative to England.

But the Kiwis did well to soak up early pressure, as both teams adjusted to the unusual conditions, with a lightning fast surface and tiny in goals.

And when their first try came, it was a beauty. England were unlucky to miss out on a 40-20, as the ball took a wicked bounce off the bouncy turf, but Watene-Zelezniak made the most of New Zealand's fortune.


From his own in goal, the Penrith fullback beat three defenders on a weaving 40 metre run. With momentum, Kodi Nikorima slipped through a retreating England line, before sending Marsters across for his first international try.

The Tigers centre made an impact on debut, and was involved in some of the Kiwis best attacking moments in the first half.

Michael Maguire's team seemed emboldened as the half went on, with plenty of second phase play and some outrageous offloads from Marty Taupau in particular, reveling in the open spaces at lock.

Another offload from Nelson Asofa-Solomona helped the Kiwis extend their lead, as Issac Luke found space to put Watene-Zelezniak across.

It should have been a platform to launch, but it didn't happen. The Kiwis struggled with their discipline, only earning their first penalty in the 31st minute.

By that stage England already had four, and the weight of possession and territory began to tell. Ryan Hall crashed over on the left wing after sustained England pressure, before Elliot Whitehead scored England's second try just before the break.

That was a momentum shifter, as the Kiwis had failed to take advantage of an Issac Luke 40-20 the set before.

The second half continued in an unstructured fashion, with Kiwis looking dangerous from broken play but England, as expected, much more organized.

A clever Gareth Widdop kick set up Whitehead's second try, before Widdop's 50 metre penalty gave a graphic demonstration of the effect of the altitude.

Thomas Makinson's try – from another unforced error sealed the result for Wayne Bennett's team, though Watene-Zelezniak crossed late to restore some pride.

New Zealand 18 (E Marsters, D Watene-Zelezniak 2 tries, J Issako 3 goals)
England 36 (R Hall, E Whitehead 2, Jake Connor, T Makinson, J Bateman tries, G Widdop 6 goals)
Halftime: 12-10