Coach Stephen Kearney says the Kiwis’ lift in intensity was key as his side dominated England in a 9-2 win to square their three-match rugby league Test series.
New Zealand had gone into the match in London trailing 1-0 after a 26-12 defeat in Hull.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Kearney said.
“It was a good old-fashioned Test match. We had a hard look at ourselves earlier in the week and they responded magnificently.”
Kearney had particular praise for the performance of Tohu Harris at the Olympic Stadium.
The Melbourne Storm second rower was a big presence throughout the 80 minutes and he also showed deft handling skills to send winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall over for the game’s only try.
“One fella I want to give a big rap to is Tohu Harris,” Kearney said.
“I thought his effort today was pretty special. He played 80 minutes on the right edge, left edge, through the middle.”
The series will now go down to the final Test at a sold-out DW Stadium in Wigan next Sunday morning (NZT) and England coach Steve McNamara is confident his side can bounce back.
While the defeat was disappointing, he said there wasn’t much between the sides.
“I thought we played half the game well today – the defensive part – but the problem is we did too much of it and it took too much of us,” he said.
“I’m very confident we can go to the DW Stadium and get the job done.”
A big moment in the game came nine minutes from the end with England trailing 8-2 and James Graham going over by the posts, but the video referees ruled the prop had failed to ground the ball.
“Obviously it was disallowed so they must have found something very conclusive and I would have to back their judgment, but it seemed strange,” McNarama said.
With the Kiwis dominant, England came up with plenty of superb defence to stay in the contest.
The home side’s resilience on their own line kept the score at 2-2 at half-time, after Kiwis co-captain Issac Luke had cancelled out Gareth Widdop’s earlier penalty.
New Zealand finally found a way through early in the second spell when Harris demonstrated finger tip control to pick up a low pass and get Kenny-Dowall over.
Jordan Kahu landed the touchline conversion to extend his side’s lead.
The game might have been decided on 62 minutes when stand-off Peta Hiku went through a gap wide out and reached the line but England substitute Brett Ferres got his body under the ball.
Luke then had a chance to wrap it up with a penalty but he missed the target from easy range.
England looked to have grabbed a draw when Graham, their most-capped player, won the race to Josh Hodgson’s grubber kick to the line.
Referee Gerard Sutton thought it was a try but video referees Phil Bentham and James Child ruled against Graham.
The tourists clinched their deserved victory four minutes from the end with Kahu’s drop goal.