Gildart Magic puts England one-up against New Zealand

Gildart Magic puts England one-up against New Zealand

Image Credit [SWpix]

A brilliant individual try by debutant Oliver Gildart saw England kick-off their three-match Test Series against New Zealand with a gripping 18-16 victory in Hull on Saturday.

After facing the ever-intimidating Kiwis’ Haka, England raced out of the blocks like a team possessed. Tommy Makinson, replacing England’s top-scorer Ryan Hall, plucked George Williams’ first kick of the afternoon out of Jordan Rapana’s hands, with the string of resulting offloads finding Sam Tomkins who slid over to open the scoring a mere three minutes in.

This early score did not rattle the Kiwis however, who grew more and more into the game as the half progressed. Centre Esan Marsters finished off a wonderful set-play by the New Zealand spine to level the scores on twelve minutes, before a rare mistake from England’s Jermaine McGillvary saw newly-appointed captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak finish in the left-hand corner from the resultant scrum play.

England however, finished the half on the front foot, albeit controversially. A fantastic cross-field run from NRL-bound John Bateman set up an overlap that Williams exploited. He found Hull’s very own Jake Connor, who slid over the line and appeared to ground the ball, despite the efforts of three New Zealand defenders.

The game-defining moment, however, came with fourteen minutes to go. Following a fantastic offload from the bustling Bateman, who drew in three Kiwi defenders, centre Oliver Gildart broke free down the right-hand side. Faced one-on-one with Watene-Zelezniak, the 2018 Super League Young Player of the Year stepped inside, then outside, to round the New Zealand skipper as if he wasn’t there and dot down for a momentous debut try.

Upon a long and tedious review, Video Referee Ben Thaler ruled that Watene-Zelezniak led with his knees in preventing Connor from grounding the ball, striking the England centre in the face, and so a penalty try was awarded. Connor converted this from in front on the sticks, levelling the two teams up at 12-all going into half-time.

The second half saw a far slower flurry of points. Despite being excellent throughout in game, New Zealand half-backs Kodi Nikorima and Shaun Johnson couldn’t muster up any significant try scoring opportunities for the Kiwis in the second half, with the excellent Johnson’s two penalty goals putting his side into a 16-14 lead.

The game-defining moment, however, came with fourteen minutes to go. Following a fantastic offload from the bustling Bateman, who drew in three Kiwi defenders, centre Oliver Gildart broke free down the right-hand side. Faced one-on-one with Watene-Zelezniak, the 2018 Super League Young Player of the Year stepped inside, then outside, to round the New Zealand skipper as if he wasn’t there and dot down for a momentous debut try.

Following this game-breaker from Gildart, England reverted to pragmatism, and held out against everything New Zealand threw at them. Jesse Bromwich and Johnson again went close, however England held on for a well-earned victory to go one-up in this Test Series.

Jonathan Burnett