Kiwis provide perfect send off

Hull 11 New Zealand 28
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The Independent Online

Hull's 107 years of Rugby League at the Boulevard ended in defeat, as New Zealand found the form to fit the event in the second half of their opening tour fixture.

The night the final curtain fell and one of the game's most famous grounds demanded something special.

After the balloons and the bagpipes, the parades and the games involving old heroes, and the heady mix of 'Old Faithful' and the Maori Haka, it was Hull who showed the early signs of providing it for the capacity 12,000 crowd.

They kept the Kiwis under pressure from the start and after five minutes, got their reward when their captain for the night, Lee Jackson, kicked through and Richard Horne won the race to touch down with Matt Crowther converting.

Jackson also reprised an old fashioned skill when he won a scrum against the seed, but Graham MacKay wasted the advantage by throwing his pass into touch. It looked suspiciously like letting the Kiwis off the hook before they had settled down.

Hull had their first major let-off when Francis Meli had a try disallowed for a forward pass.

With Hull also losing much of their early direction, the game was struggling to live up to the occasion, but New Zealand came alive six minutes before half time, the former Hull player, Michael Smith, getting his pass away for Clinton Toopi who sent David Vaealiki over with Lance Hohaia 's goal tying the scoring. They came close to taking the lead before half time, Hohaia grounding the ball before the line.

Instead, MacKay gave Hull the narrowest of advantages with a massive drop goal from inside his own half.

New Zealand looked far more tuned in after the break, although it took Craig Poucher's fumble to allow Hohaia to kick ahead and Henry Fa'afili to touch down.

The Kiwis were a different side now, even if Nigel Vagana's try, after he kicked ahead from Stephen Kearney's long pass, must have been a close call for the video referee.

Fa'afili's second after some amazing handling from Meli Toopi on the opposite wing, showed that the Kiwi's were now starting to fire and Meli's 80-yard interception try from Paul Cooke's lose pass underlined it.

It was not destined to be the last try at the Boulevard, Paul Parker claimed that in the last minute, but the Kiwis had done enough to show that, with the addition of players like Robbie Paul and Stacey Jones to the mix, they will be formidable opponents for Great Britain.

Hull: Prescott; Parker, Horne; Mackay, Crowther, J Smith, T Smith; Greenhill, Jackson, Maher, Logan, Ryan, Chester. Substitutes: King, Poucher, Fletcher, Cooke.

New Zealand: Vaealiki; Fa'afili, Vagana; Toopi, Meli, Tony, Hohaia; Cayless, Beatham, Rauhihi, Puliatua, Wiki, Swann. Substitutes: Kearney, Swain, Guttenbeil, M Smith.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).