New Zealand. .14
NEW ZEALAND, their pride battered by a dreadful performance at Wembley, went some way towards restoring their credibility with a hard-fought win at St Helens last night.
The Kiwis dispensed with their traditional haka for the first time on this tour, but there was no lack of martial vigour in the way they started the game. Ferocious running by Jason Mackie and Stephen Kearney should have produced a try after three minutes, but Aaron Whittaker was turned on to his back over the line.
St Helens had a chance of their own when Paul Loughlin put a penalty for offside wide of the posts. Gene Ngamu missed at the other end after a kick was awarded for obstruction while, for Saints, George Mann went on a couple of surging runs that could earn him a New Zealand call-up.
When the deadlock was broken, Mann made the breaks. He powered through one of his favourite channels wide on the left and found Loughlin in support for Alan Hunte to score in the corner.
New Zealand's reply and their first try for over two hours gave a welcome glimpse of the ability that has been lying dormant in this squad. John Lomax made the vital break and got his pass away perfectly for Whetu Taewa to send Peter Edwards in for the try. Ngamu added the goal to give the Kiwis the lead.
Both sides missed penalties, vital in such a tight battle, early in the second half, but New Zealand, with a tour to save, showed the greater determination to come out on top.
In a tense, sometimes ill- tempered match, Sonny Nickle and the Kiwi hooker, Denvour Johnston, were sent to the sin bin after a flare up. That stung Saints into greater effort and although Hunte seemed to have run into a blind alley a long pass to Phil Vievers opened up the Kiwi right flank for Mike Riley to score.
A nerve-racking finish was promised, but Mackie, who must surely have played his way into the side for the second Test, clinched the victory four minutes from time by setting up a try for Mark Nixon.
St Helens: Lyon; Riley, Veivers, Loughlin (Quirk, h/t), Hunte; Ropati, Griffiths; Neill (Fogerty, 20), Dwyer, Mann, Joynt, Nickle (O'Donnell, 70), Cooper.
New Zealand: P Edwards; Hoppe, Taewa (M Edwards, 68), Williams, Donnelly; Ngamu (Nixon, 35), Whittaker; Piva, Johnston, J Lomax, Kearney, Pongia (D Lomax, 68), Mackie (L Edwards, 77).
Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).
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