The Denver experiment ended in disappointment for the Kiwis but there were some promising signs in their 36-18 defeat to England at Mile High Stadium.

The new-look Kiwis were hoping to restore some pride to the black and white jersey after their humiliating exit at last year's World Cup, but after building out to an early 12-0 lead they let themselves down with some sloppy defence and poor discipline in the second-half.

However, new coach Michael Maguire's decision to blood seven debutants proved inspired, with right centre Esan Marsters and left wing Ken Maumalo producing strong performances, while rookie forwards Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Joseph Tapine were a constant handful.

Maguire looked to have the Kiwis playing the right brand of football when they worked to their strengths in the first-half, with strong running and offloads through the middle and crisp passing out wide posing plenty of problems for England's defence.


They lost their way as the first-half wound down however and fell away badly after the break as errors and ill-discipline crept into their play, while the much more experienced England side patiently warmed into their work and nailed the opportunities that came their way.

Unofficial Kiwis captain and recalled hooker Issac Luke produced a strong running game in what could be his last test appearance, but both he and veteran prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves let their frustrations get the better of them.

Luke inexplicably kicked the ball out on the full on three occasions while he also reacted poorly after copping a stray elbow while attempting to tackle England centre John Bateman.

The No 9 was forced from the field for a period during which the Kiwis attack looked rudderless before their play improved upon his return, with a darting run helping send outstanding fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in for his second try with 12 minutes remaining.

The new-look Kiwis showed some promising signs despite going down to England in the Denver test. Photo / Photosport.
The new-look Kiwis showed some promising signs despite going down to England in the Denver test. Photo / Photosport.

It was too little too late however but despite the loss in his first test in charge, Maguire would have been encouraged by what he saw when his players did follow the game plan.

The 19-man squad had a short preparation with just three training sessions together since arriving in the US on Tuesday and there appears to be plenty of improvement left in the side.

The Kiwis are likely to welcome back the likes of Warriors captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, halfback Shaun Johnson, along with veteran forwards Jesse Bromwich and Tohu Harris, for the October test against Australia in Auckland and end of year tour to the UK. Their added experience alongside the youthful enthusiasm of the new players in the side should help sharpen their attack as the Kiwis continue to rebuild.

The match attracted just 19, 320 fans and it remains to be seen whether NRL clubs succeed in their efforts to have the fixture moved to the end of the season over the next two years.


The game was entertaining as a spectacle but the manner in which the Kiwis faded would have frustrated experienced observers as England ultimately cruised to victory.

After all the concerns over player welfare, Warriors fans will be relieved their three representatives - Luke, Maumalo and Peta Hiku – came through unscathed, but time will tell whether coach Stephen Kearney sticks to his policy of resting the trio for Friday's NRL clash against Cronulla at Mt Smart Stadium.

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