5 talking points from England’s series-winning victory over New Zealand

Tommy Makinson scored a brilliant hat-trick to help England seal a memorable series win over New Zealand in a gripping test match at Anfield.

The St Helens winger had helped keep his side in the game with three try-saving tackles in a first half dominated by the Kiwis, before touching down to level the scores at the break.

And after the restart he added two more tries as the home side battled back from an eight-point deficit at one point, visiting captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak creating a try for Ken Maumalo having scored himself in the first half.

With Jake Connor making it four tries in as many internationals, England recorded a famous win.

Here’s five talking points from the match.

1. Magnificent Makinson

In just his third test match, St Helens winger Tommy Makinson looked like he’d spent a full career on the international stage.

Such was his first half contribution – which included three try saving tackles, some of the toughest early set carries and a score of his own – the BBC could almost have based their entire interval analysis around his performance.

And it got even better after the break, as he completed a match-winning hat-trick to confirm one of the easiest man of the match selections you could make.

Makinson has been superb all season for Saints and has now made the step up to the national side with apparent ease.

It’s rich reward for a popular player that has had to battle back from two major injuries to reach the top.

2. Wayne Bennett was right

After last weekend’s opening test win in Hull, the often dry Wayne Bennett offered, unprompted, the observation that this is an England side for the country to be proud of.

The veteran Australian is absolutely right.

At times in this game his side looked like they might be physically dominated by a Kiwi team fired by last week’s defeat.

But to a man they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a confrontational clash, quick to aid their team-mates at the sign of any aggression from their opponents.

Tommy Makinson will rightly write the headlines in tomorrow’s papers, but there were outstanding performances across the team, including John Bateman, Jake Connor, Elliott Whitehead, Luke Thompson and Josh Hodgson.

It’s easy to forget too that there are around a dozen leading players missing through injury, including skipper Sean O’Loughlin.

The 2021 World Cup on these shores is already looking a mouth-watering prospect.

3. Bateman well suited for the NRL

John Bateman heads Down Under once this test series finishes, and Canberra Raiders supporters are in for a treat.

The Wigan back rower became more prominent as the game wore on, consistently taking the game to New Zealand with the ball and defending tenaciously.

Whenever there was any sign of trouble, such as following one of several late hits on half-backs, Bateman was generally the first man there to back up his team-mate.

His departure is a real loss for Super League but he is now a key figure for the national side.

4. Captain fantastic in defeat

New Zealand has a proud history of bringing outstanding touring captains to these shores, from Hugh McGahan to Stephen Kearney and Ruben Wiki.

If the early indications are anything to go by, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will be just as revered in years to come.

The Penrith Panthers full-back was seen as a surprise selection by coach Michael Maguire in some circles at just 23 years of age.

But he has been all class on and off the field since then, and in Liverpool scored for the second straight test and created another for winger Ken Maumalo.

He has finished on the losing side in his first series as skipper, but you get the impression we haven’t heard the last of Watene-Zelezniak.

5. Atmospheric Anfield

There had been plenty of focus on the promotion and build-up to test matches during the week as rugby league headed back to a ground where they sold 44,000 tickets for a Four Nations final not involving England two years ago.

This time the figure was 26,234, which boosted from low early sales figures by an impressive drive last week that included a remarkable Chris Evans endorsement on his Radio Two show, and the Burgess twins singing film soundtracks on Five Live.

Those that were there helped generate a terrific atmosphere ahead of a possible switch for Magic Weekend next year to the Liverpool venue.

Ticket sales for next Sunday’s third test at Elland Road are encouraging and there seems to have been a positive shift towards rugby league talking itself up that the sport needs to continue.

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