Gareth Widdop tips England to bounce back

St George Illawarra playmaker Gareth Widdop insists England can make the necessary adjustments that will help them secure a series victory over New Zealand.

England drew first blood with a win in Hull but a 9-2 defeat in the second Test at London’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday means the series will be decided in front of a capacity crowd at Wigan’s DW Stadium next Saturday.

The Kiwis have the momentum after outplaying their hosts for long periods at Queen Elizabeth OIympic Park, where only heroic defence kept Steve McNamara’s men in contention.

Although James Graham had a try controversially disallowed by the video referees, England struggled woefully to create chances, which Widdop put down to their arduous work in defence.

“It was obviously a close game,” said the Halifax-born St George Illawarra half-back. “To the boys’ credit, we defended really well. At times we were under a lot of pressure on our own line but we kept turning up and that probably took its toll on us a little bit.

“It’s always hard when you’re defending so much and you’re scrambling. You get into your attack and there is lack of energy I guess.

“But, in saying that, it’s 1-1 and obviously do-or-die next week now and we’re certainly confident. We’ve got a great team and we showed last week we can do it.

“If we can defend like we did tonight and just fix up our attack a bit, we’ll be fine.

“Hopefully we can hold the ball a bit more and put them under a bit of pressure.”

Widdop, who won his 17th cap on Saturday, looks certain to keep his spot for the decider but McNamara is certain to consider a new halfback partner after Wigan youngster George Williams struggled to step up to the mark.

McNamara could go back to the tried and trusted Matty Smith, Williams’ half-back partner at Wigan, or take the bold option of giving Castleford’s Luke Gale his debut.

The coach might be swayed by the actions of his counterpart Stephen Kearney, whose late decision to call up 21-year-old Kodi Nikorima for his full debut paid off handsomely.

The Brisbane utility player, who had not played a full 80-minute game in senior football before Saturday, added variety to the Kiwis’ attack, helped set up the only try for Shaun Kenny-Dowall and defied an attack of severe cramp to go agonisingly close to scoring himself.

Nikorima was initially dropped from the bench after acting as back-up for hooker Issac Luke in Hull but was recalled by Kearney in place of Tui Lolohea.

“We had a lunch on Thursday at New Zealand House and he just pulled me aside after that and told me that I was playing this week,” he said.

“I wasn’t too disappointed when I was left out. I love winning and spoke to Mooks (Kearney) and said ‘you do what’s best for the team. nothing will change from me’.

“Then, when I got the nod, I was definitely excited and I honestly didn’t tell anyone apart from my missus. I don’t think anyone back home was watching me.”

Kearney said: “I just got a feeling over the course of the week that Kodi would handle the decision a little bit better. I thought he was pretty good.”

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