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Battling England take series win.

TEST rugby league is alive and well and you only have to witness what transpired at Anfield as England produced an outstanding second-half comeback to beat New Zealand 20-14.

England were already on the front foot thanks to a two-point victory at the KCOM Stadium in the first Test a week earlier but were in a hole 14-6 down in the second period, only to score 14 unanswered points to retain the Baskerville Shield.

A depleted England side fought hard and provided a sublime second-half effort as Tommy Makinson bagged an outstanding hat-trick to see the hosts secure the series win.

FC star Jake Connor had his first-half struggles before scoring one and assisting two in the second period, while Hull-born hooker Josh Hodgson made some key contributions throughout.

But the headlines must go to Makinson who came up with two try-saving efforts in the first half before diving over prior to the break.

The Kiwis were brutal in defence and strong in attack and dominated England early in the second half but England held firm despite not having pack starters Sam Burgess and Sean O'Loughlin on deck.

The likes of Ryan Hall, Kallum Watkins, Luke Gale and Gareth Widdop were also missing in the backs but injuries present opportunities, and this series so far has highlighted Makinson's incredible talent. The St Helens' winger was helped out by Connor for his second but the final try was something to behold.

Makinson grabbed the ball 30 metres out and from a standing start powered through and over for the score as he reached out.

England started the match on the front foot but an opportunity for Connor went begging when the FC star was dumped into touch close to the line by Joseph Manu and co. It was sluggish attacking play but great defence as well.

Tempers flared briefly soon after as Sam Tomkins was taken out off the ball, with Connor adding a penalty goal to give England a 6-0 lead in the sixth minute.

Jesse Bromwich was the man punished but the front rower got back to business as he led a Kiwis pack which dominated England during the first half. The Kiwis soon had the lead on the back of this strong forward play.

Kodi Nikorima put Dallin Watene-Zelezniak into space before the full-back exposed poor defence from Tomkins and Oliver Gildart to slice through.

Shaun Johnson added the conversion.

England turned the screw but Connor was again held in check as he lost possession close to the Kiwi line.

James Graham went off due to a head knock and Hodgson was also pushed into the loose-forward role when Daryl Clark came off the bench.

The move was a good one from Wayne Bennett as the Hullborn hooker played a role in Makinson's try before the break, with George Williams providing the looping final pass for the score. Connor couldn't convert as the game was tied at six apiece at half-time.

New Zealand had the early good field position in the second period but Esan Marsters lost the ball on the last as his side attempted to expose England's right edge.

The Kiwis had more luck on their next attacking foray as they took a vital six-point lead. Nikorima again found a neat short ball with Watene-Zelezniak break free from halfway. The full-back sped away before finding the perfect pass for Ken Maumalo to cross.

Johnson converted and put the Kiwis into a 14-6 lead with a penalty goal in the 50th minute, with Clark leaving the field due to a rib injury.

Tomkins was taken off the ball again with 25 minutes left by James Fisher-Harris and the subsequent brawl saw the atmosphere at Anfield go up a few notches.

The penalty went to England and Fisher-Harris was lucky to stay on the field before England camped themselves on the Kiwi line.

England found their breakthrough again in Makinson as Connor provided the outstanding final ball over the top for the former to finish.

Tom Burgess went agonisingly close to levelling up the contest on the hour mark but was held up over the line.

However, England were undeterred as they produced another moment of magic in the final quarter down their left edge. This time it was Hodgson who went blind and took the Kiwis by surprise with the hooker finding Elliott Whitehead and he passed for Connor to score.

The Kiwis lost Rapana to an arm injury with 10 minutes to go before England came up with the aforementioned a classic Makinson moment. Tomkins converted before England held on to secure the series win.

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England's Tommy Makinson scores his side's second try
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 5, 2018
Words:779
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