Whitehead doubles secures series win for excellent England


A double from Elliott Whitehead saw England claim a Test series victory over New Zealand courtesy of a thrilling 20-14 success at the DW Stadium on Saturday.

New Zealand had squared the three-match series with a 9-2 win at the Olympic Stadium last weekend but were frustrated by a stout England side in wet conditions in Wigan.

Despite enjoying long periods of possession and territory, New Zealand were careless with the ball in hand and their lack of a cutting edge ultimately cost the world's top-ranked side.

It was Canberra Raiders second row Whitehead who did most of the damage with a try in each half, separated by a Jason Nightingale score for New Zealand.

England captain Sean O'Loughlin then looked to have made the game safe by surging his way under the posts.

However, tries from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jordan Kahu set up a tense finish before England's defence stood firm to clinch the series.

Having forced New Zealand into a drop-out from the opening kick-off, England were rewarded for a spell of early pressure when Gareth Widdop converted a penalty from in front of the posts.

The Kiwis quickly grew into the game, but struggled to take advantage of their opportunities.

First a poor pass from Tuivasa-Sheck ended a promising attack set up by a Jesse Bromwich break before Peta Hiku was ruled to have knocked on by the video referee with the line in sight.

And New Zealand were punished for not capitalising on those chances when Whitehead pounced on a deflected grubber kick to register the opening try 25 minutes in.

Widdop added the extras but the tourists responded in stunning fashion nine minutes later as Nightingale latched onto the end of some neat New Zealand interplay to swan dive over in the left-hand corner.

New Zealand started the second half the stronger, but a succession of handling errors in the persistent rain prevented the Kiwis from making the most of their dominance.

Once again New Zealand were made to pay for their profligacy by Whitehead, who barged his way to the line in the 62nd minute after a penalty had given England excellent field position.

Loose forward O'Loughlin then seemingly put the game beyond doubt, only for Nightingale to set up Tuivasa-Sheck with an incredible offload before Kahu latched onto a cross-field kick to fray the home nerves further.

But Issac Luke failed to convert either of those tries and, despite New Zealand mounting further pressure in the closing stages, England held on to seal their triumph.