England 20-14 New Zealand: Tom Makinson hat-trick gives England unassailable Test series lead

4 Nov

Tom Makinson scored a sensational hat-trick of tries to help England wrap up the Test series with New Zealand with a game to spare.

The St Helens winger completed a remarkable introduction to the international scene with a man-of-the-match display in England’s hugely-impressive 20-14 victory.

Tommy Makinson celebrates the first try

Wayne Bennett’s men twice came from behind to finally see off the plucky Kiwis, whose captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak threatened to win the game on his own.

Among a host of heroes was James Graham, an Everton fan leading England out at Anfield, but special mention goes to rookie prop Luke Thompson, who looks a natural at this level, while centre Jake Connor made it four tries in as many appearances.

Connor managed just one goal from his four attempts as England outscored their visitors by four tries to two.

England drew first blood after Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich was punished for a late tackle on Sam Tomkins and Connor kicked the penalty to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Esan Masters is tackled by Jonny Lomax, Sam Tomkins, and Oliver Gildart

However, the tourists struck back just three minutes later when full-back and captain Watene-Zelezniak sliced between Tomkins and Oliver Gildart for the game’s first try and Shaun Johnson’s conversion made it 6-2.

With Johnson pulling the strings, the Kiwis twice went close again through right winger Jordan Rapana but Makinson was rock solid in defence.

Makinson also came to England’s rescue by getting his body underneath second rower Kevin Proctor as the Kiwis pummelled their line.

England spent most of the first half defending and, in rare breaks, centre Gildart, their match-winner in the first Test, twice spilled the ball.

But the home side looked sharper when hooker Daryl Clark came off the bench and, after twice opting to run penalties from in front of the posts, their enterprise paid off two minutes before half-time when a cut-out pass from stand-off George Williams got Makinson over at the corner.

Connor was unable to add the goal, which left the scores locked at 6-6, and New Zealand went back in front just four minutes into the second half with an exceptional try.

Watene-Zelezniak was put through a gap on halfway by Kodi Nikorima’s short pass and he toyed with the England defenders before sending winger Ken Maumalo over at the corner.

Johnson landed the touchline conversion and added a penalty five minutes later to extend the lead to 14-6.

Tempers became frayed once more, fuelled by a late hit by substitute James Fisher-Harris on Tomkins, which seemed to galvanise both England and the 25,000 crowd.

Tommy Makinson touches down

Deft passes from full-back Jonny Lomax and Connor got Makinson over for his second try in the 56th minute and Tom Burgess bundled his way over the line three minutes later only to be held up in a three-man tackle.

The momentum was all with England by then and they drew level after 63 minutes when Canberra team-mates Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead combined neatly to get Connor over for the third try.

Connor this time struck an upright with the difficult conversion attempt, but England had a chance to clinch victory when Makinson broke clear only to ruin the final pass to Lomax.

Makinson quickly made amends, though, stepping inside and wrong-footing the back-pedalling Kiwi defence to complete his hat-trick and Tomkins rounded off the scoring with the conversion.

Liverpool news: New Zealand rugby league team train at Melwood and perform Haka for Jurgen Klopp and his players

31 Oct

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left inspired by the New Zealand rugby league team as his players got to watch the famous Haka in a canteen.

The Kiwis visited Liverpool’s training facility at Melwood, where they trained and ate alongside the Premier League footballers, in preparation for Sunday’s second Test against England at Anfield.

Klopp was happy to take tips from the Kiwis

Klopp, who chatted with New Zealand head coach Michael Maguire and was presented with a Kiwi jersey by prop forward Jesse Bromwich, watched on as the tourists performed the Haka in the canteen.

“It was great,” Klopp said. “They are a bunch of real sports guys, I think it’s the third time now that we’ve had the opportunity to host them.

“It’s really cool. They had a good session, I hope. They are always welcome.

“We’re a very open-minded club, we’re open to learn from different sports.

“I’m interested in it actually. Obviously the sport is quite different but it’s still interesting to talk and have a chat. I enjoyed it a lot.”

New Zealand utility player Gerard Beale, who was also among the 2015 and 2016 tourists that visited Melwood, said: “Each time it’s special.

New Zealand perform their famous Haka

“It’s a privilege to be able to come into Liverpool’s home and share their facilities. To mix and mingle and rub shoulders with some of the players was really special.

“They are as famous as, with people like Mo Salah but the biggest thing was seeing how genuine and approachable they are.

“It’s cool that we could share the Haka with them and we put in a good session so morale is definitely up there.”

England name uncapped duo Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson in team to face New Zealand

20 Jun

England head coach Wayne Bennett has named uncapped pair Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson in his team to face New Zealand in the United States, but there is no place for Luke Thompson.

England will take on the Kiwis in a historic one-off Test in Denver, Colorado, on June 23.

BAPTISM OF FIRE – Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson will make their England debuts against New Zealand

With Wigan half-back George Williams already ruled out with a knee injury, St Helens prop Thompson is the only fit member of Bennett’s 19-man squad to miss out.

The side to face the Kiwis at the Mile High Stadium includes 12 players who were part of the team beaten by Australia in the World Cup final in December.

On uncapped pair Connor and Makinson, Bennett said: “Their form is good in the UK and that’s half the battle – playing well at the right time of the year, and they are playing well.

“It’ll be a different contest to what they’re used to but they look like they’re well equipped to handle it.”

Scott Taylor, who featured only once at the World Cup, has been preferred ahead of Thompson after receiving a late call-up following the withdrawal of George Burgess.

“Scott’s been in the squad since I’ve been coach but he hasn’t played enough Test matches so he’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do this week,” said Bennett.

England’s Australian head coach Wayne Bennett

Bennett is excited to help showcase rugby league in Colorado.

“It’s important and the players think it’s important,” he said. “We wouldn’t have come otherwise and fought as hard as we did to get it on; certainly the clubs weren’t keen about it, most of the clubs weren’t.

“We believe it’s important and we’re all pleased to be here. There is going to be a World Cup here in 2025 so it’s important that we start to play a lot more football over here so the Americans understand what rugby league is and how it’s played.”

England’s 17-squad to face New Zealand: John Bateman, Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Jake Connor, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Jermaine McGillvary, Sean O’Loughlin (captain), Mark Percival, Stefan Ratchford, James Roby, Scott Taylor, Elliott Whitehead, Gareth Widdop.