England 20 Kiwis 12
HUDDERSFIELD - A heavyweight England floored world champions New Zealand 20-12 this morning (NZT) to set up a Four Nations final clash with Australia.
Two quickfire tries from Hull KR winger Peter Fox in the closing minutes of the first half proved crucial after Bryson Goodwin had matched Kyle Eastmond's opening score for England.
Ben Matulino ensured the contest remained open by touching down early in the second half but a Kevin Sinfield settled England's nerves as their disciplined defensive work was rewarded.
"(The victory) is a real shot in the arm for the game in the northern hemisphere and for Super League," said England coach Tony Smith.
"The southern hemisphere are always favourites in our sport, and to beat them to the final is a feat in itself. The players are really pleased to make the final - but we're not done yet. That was part of the motivation tonight - we wanted another crack at Australia."
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney had praise for England and believes they can push the Kangaroos all the way in the final.
"The English were very good tonight," he said. "They were certainly very physical through the middle.
"I've got to say we're very disappointed. We didn't put our best foot forward, but the English didn't allow us to do that. I thought they were wonderful."
Smith's decision to beef up his pack at the last minute was vindicated as Sinfield, switched to hooker to accommodate the introduction of Sam Burgess at loose forward, produced a man-of-the-match performance.
England effectively had four props in action with captain Jamie Peacock operating in the second row behind Adrian Morley and James Graham.
New Zealand handed a debut to 19-year-old Kieran Foran in place of the injured Steve Matai.
On a slick surface, England began slowly but took the lead after 10 minutes thanks to good work from Burgess, who went through two tackles before putting St Helens scrum Eastmond in under the posts.
New Zealand responded quickly and, after Peter Fox failed to intercept a long Lance Hohaia pass, Foran set up Goodwin in the corner.
Goodwin was unable to convert but levelled the score with a goal ten minutes before the interval after Eorl Crabtree was penalised for holding down Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Just before, referee Thierry Alibert had missed a swinging arm from Kiwi stand-off Benji Marshall which caught opposite number Sam Tomkins in the face.
England reclaimed the lead five minutes before the interval as Tomkins caught New Zealand off guard with a superb crossfield kick.
Fox was first to react and dived on the bouncing ball in the corner.
The Hull KR winger then doubled his tally on the stroke of halftime, cutting inside from the right touchline after being fed by Chris Bridge to give England a commanding 18-6 lead at the interval.
New Zealand pulled a try back through Ben Matulino, within two minutes of the restart.
Issac Luke made the initial burst, before Junior Sau cut inside from the right and then went wide to find Matulino, who narrowed the angle for Goodwin to convert.
England replied by producing two good breaks down the left but were unable to capitalise on them, setting the stage for a tense finale dominated by ferocious defensive work.
England strengthened their position when New Zealand conceded a penalty in front of their posts and ultimately were able to see the match out fairly comfortably, although the final minute was marred by the melee that ensued after Fuifoi Moimoi had felled Ben Westwood with a dangerous high tackle.
England 20 (Fox 2, Eastmond tries, Sinfield 4g) New Zealand 12 (B Goodwin, B Matulino tries B Goodwin 2g) at Galpharm (McAlpine) Stadium, Huddersfied. Referee: Thierry Albert.