New Zealand levels series with London win

Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossed for the only try as New Zealand levelled up the three-Test series with a hard-fought 9-2 win over England at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

After England romped to an impressive 26-12 victory in Hull last weekend, defences dominated in London as Gareth Widdop and Issac Luke traded penalties in a try-less first half.

But immediately after the interval it was Kenny-Dowall who went over following superb work from Tohu Harris to put the Kiwis on top.

Both sides wasted chances in the second half in a low-quality encounter before Jordan Kahu slotted a drop-goal to seal a Kiwi win and set up a third Test decider at the DW Stadium in the north-west rugby league stronghold of Wigan next weekend.

A conservative approach from both sides saw Widdop and Luke exchange early penalties to make it 2-2 at the quarter-hour mark.

The Kiwis then began to dominate possession, with ball-carriers Harris and Adam Blair to the fore, putting some serious pressure on the English line.

The hosts had to repel set after set around the halfway stage in the first half and they breathed a sigh of relief when the ball was spun wide only for Peta Hiku to spill the ball short of the line.

Nine minutes before the end of the half England began to pose their first serious threat.

But a perfectly weighted grubber from Widdop into the in-goal area was dealt with by New Zealand’s Roger Tuivasa-Sheck under close attention from Tom Burgess.

The match burst into life straight after the restart, Kenny-Dowall crossing for the score in the right corner after superb handling from Harris.

With Luke off injured, Kahu took over the kicking duties and from the right-hand touchline he made no mistake, bisecting the posts to put the visitors 8-2 in front.

England needed the next score but despite plenty of territory, the prompting of Widdop and George Williams in the half-backs could not unlock the impressive Kiwi defence, a break from Kallum Watkins the closest they came to a try.

After seeing his side ship four tries in Hull in the first Test, Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney had talked about improving his team’s defence and they made good on his words by standing firm at the Olympic Stadium.

And after the hour mark, New Zealand nearly killed the game off but Hiku was somehow held up over the line when he seemed certain to score thanks to superb covering work from Brett Ferres.

The door remained ajar for England once again when Luke missed an eminently kickable penalty with 10 minutes remaining to keep it a one-score game.

England appeared to have hit back late on when James Graham dived on Josh Hodgson’s cute kick under the posts. But after lengthy consultation with the television match official, the score was correctly chalked off because England prop Graham had failed to ground the ball with his hands.

Straight away at the other end, the Kiwis butchered a chance of their own when debutant Kodi Nikorima knocked on in the process of diving over the line.

But late on there was still time for Kahu to pop over a drop-goal to put the Kiwis seven points clear and guarantee a “live” deciding third Test next weekend in Wigan.

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