England 18 Kiwis 16

The pursuit of history in England is now that much more difficult for the Kiwis after their winless run at Hull's KCOM Stadium continued this morning.

Failing to build on momentum garnered from their upset win over the Kangaroos two weeks ago in Auckland, the Kiwis were their own worst enemies as they fell to an 18-16 defeat, their fifth straight loss at this venue dating back 2004 Tri Nations.

Two second half Shaun Johnson goals were all the Kiwis could muster after being locked 12-12 at half time.

The Kiwis had their chances but, ultimately, discipline proved costly. They conceded nine penalties, many of those in the second half.

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And so odds on their quest to win the first three-test series in England since 1998 now lengthen greatly.

Spurred on by 17,000 roaring locals, England came home strongly. They made breaks and defensive intensity lifted significantly.

England second-rower John Bateman made one telling offload to give Oliver Gildart space, and with a superb in and away, he left Dallin Watene-Zelezniak clutching in his path to score what proved the match-winning try.

At the other end of the field, Johnson threw one forward pass and was twice pinged for laying in the ruck. Execution was missing. And that was the difference.

Just before the break, the Kiwis were on top, only to concede a controversial penalty try.

Johnson looked to have done enough to hold Jake Connor up over the line but English Video referee Ben Thaler decided to award a penalty try, ruling against Watene-Zelezniak for diving in with his knees.

The New Zealand players perform the Haka on the pitch prior to the International Series match between England and New Zealand at KCOM Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
The New Zealand players perform the Haka on the pitch prior to the International Series match between England and New Zealand at KCOM Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

Watene-Zelezniak remonstrated with referee Robert Hicks but he did not want to know about it.

In arctic-like conditions and with a greasy ball, this opening match was always going to be an arm wrestle.

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With handling difficult both teams made errors in the play the ball, and penalties became even more crucial to securing field position; Jared Warera-Hargreaves guilty of giving away two first half piggybacks.

The Kiwis were dealt a blow prior to kickoff with former captain Adam Blair ruled out due to a knee knock in training which did not come right.

Canberra second-rower Joseph Tapine replaced Blair but the Kiwis were again on the backfoot when Sam Tomkins crossed in just the third minute after England wing Tommy Makinson got the better of Jordan Rapana in the air.

Largely thanks to Jesse Bromwich's metre-eating efforts in the middle of the park, the Kiwis began to build. Kodi Nikorima and Johnson combined for a quality set play and inside ball to send Tigers centre Esan Masters over for his second try in three tests.

That seemed to settle the Kiwis. While last tackle options weren't always executed well the Kiwis built pressure through defensive efforts – almost scoring after an ill-advised offload from a backpedalling Makinson on his own line.

Service from dummy half was often poor for the Kiwis, Johnson frequently having to stop and go again with passes pushed behind him.

Leading from the front on attack at least, Watene-Zelezniak was another ever-present, his carries from the back defying his size.

It was a touch of class from Nikorima, with a little skip to the outside from a scrum, which put his young skipper through the gap to give the Kiwis the lead for the first time.

But once England regained control after Gildart's try, they never looked like dropping this first match.

Scorers:
England: Sam Tomkins, penalty try, Oliver Gildart, Jake Conor con 2, pen
New Zealand: Esan Masters, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak tries, Shaun Johnson con 2, pen 2
HT: 12-12