A wonderful solo try from Oliver Gildart on his debut helped England to a hard-fought 18-16 victory in the opening match of the three-match Test series against New Zealand.
England were trailing 16-14 when Gildart, a late call-up for the series, produced a moment of brilliance to light up the game and get the post-World Cup era under Wayne Bennett off to a dream start.
Sam Tomkins, playing under Bennett for the first time, opened the scoring on his first appearance for England for four years.
However, the home side failed to build on it as the Kiwis came back strongly, equalising through centre Esan Marsters before Kodi Nikorima went over nine minutes before half-time.
IT'S A WIN FOR BOYS 👌— England Rugby League (@England_RL) October 27, 2018
Strong defence and a memorable debut try see England take a 1-0 lead in the series pic.twitter.com/ZwHUw1ZYyx
Jake Connor forced his way over the line wide out only to be held up by Shaun Johnson but Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was pulled up for going into the tackle with his knees and referee Robert Hicks awarded a penalty try, which Connor goaled to tie the scores at 12-12.
Johnson kicked two penalties and Connor one early in the second half before Gildart evaded the challenge of second rower Isaac Liu and held off the chasers on a 40-metre dash to the line for a glorious try.
England coach Bennett said: “I hope you all realise you’ve got a pretty special footy team. The English should be really proud of them. They’re a great group of guys, they work really hard. We couldn’t have given any more, we didn’t have a bad player.
"There are about 10 guys that played in the World Cup who are not here, so we’re building some depth, which is important, and we’re building a lot of young men with desire who really want to rattle the cages of Australia and New Zealand."
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire said: "The game was there to take for both teams. I think they applied a bit more pressure than we did. We’ll get a fair bit out of that one, obviously from what we did a couple of weeks ago to where we are today, shows the difference in Test match football is all about pressure.
"At the end of the day it’s all part of game, it’s about how we respond and I’m really looking forward to that.”