'Pretty special' England edge New Zealand in thriller

Sam Powell is set to line-up against PNG tomorrow. SWpix

Sam Powell is set to line-up against PNG tomorrow. SWpix

Wayne Bennett's side will head to Anfield next Sunday seeking to clinch their second tournament success over New Zealand in four years thanks to an opening 18-16 victory at the KCOM Stadium in Hull.

England made the dream start and were ahead after less than three minutes.

Sam Tomkins says his half-back duel with his former New Zealand Warriors team-mate Shaun Johnson could help determine the outcome of England's first Test against the Kiwis.

However, the home side failed to build on it as the Kiwis came back strongly, equalising through centre Esan Marsters after half-backs Kodi Nikorima and Shaun Johnson opened up the England defence in ominously easy fashion.

Makinson was let off the hook a few minutes later when an offload on a kick return in heavy traffic looked to have led to another try but Johnson knocked on in the ensuing scramble.

The pivotal moment came five minutes later when second-rower John Bateman squeezed out a pass, while being tackled by three defenders, to Gildart, who was unmarked on the right edge and beat the last defender for a rousing try.

Gildart's selection by Bennett over St Helens' Mark Percival raised some eyebrows.

Martin Taupau was monstered by Thompson in the hit of the first half as England set about disrupting the unsafe attacking game of the tourists.

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England levelled matters with a penalty try on the stroke of half time.

England had an escape moments later when Johnson's kick was taken by Makinson who offloaded on his own line to Connor.

But, seconds before the break, England were awarded a penalty try when Connor dived over on the left side with video referee Ben Thaler ruling that Watene-Zelezniak had dived in with his knees.

A penalty try was awarded and - rather than having a kick from the touchline - Connor squared the scores at 12-12 from in front of the posts.

Johnson twice kicked the Kiwis back ahead after the break - with Connor responding with a penalty goal of his own on 55 minutes - and for large periods of the second half, it looked as though those goals would prove to be the difference.

Hill and George Burgess departed as Graham and Tom Burgess returned to the fray.

Wire hooker Daryl Clark joined the action on 63 minutes, with Josh Hodgson taking over at loose-forward from Thompson.

A closely contested encounter throughout, a moment of brilliance from Oliver Gildart, on his global debut, proved to be the game breaker with his stunning sprint from halfway the decisive score.

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