WAYNE Bennett hailed the character and resolve of his depleted England side after they edged out New Zealand 18-16 in an absorbing Test in Hull.
A magnificent solo try 12 minutes from time by debutant centre Oliver Gildart clinched a narrow victory for the hosts who were without several key players including Gareth Widdop, Sam Burgess and Kallum Watkins.
Gildart raced almost 50 metres at the KC Stadium after exploiting a gap in the Kiwi defence following a brilliant offload by Canberra-bound John Bateman.
“It was a great centre’s try, we don’t see enough of them,” Bennett said.
Oliver Gildart storms over for the match-winning try.Source:Getty Images
“He did a great job, 50 metres, beat two or three players on the way, it was great to watch.”
New Zealand, fresh from their win over Australia earlier this month, looked the sharper of the two sides in the first half, with the hosts missing 17 tackles before the break.
Despite that, the scores were tied 12-all at the interval with Sam Tomkins opening the scoring in the fourth minute.
The Kiwis hit back with four-pointers from Esan Marsters and skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and looked on course to go in ahead at the break.
But on the stroke of halftime England levelled the scores through a controversial penalty try when Jake Connor was adjudged to have been impeded as he crossed the line by the video referee.
The centre has been held up by Johnson and Watene-Zelezniak, but the skipper was penalised for sliding in with his knees and the try awarded.
England were much improved after the restart and Bennett was delighted with the way his young side held on to see out the game after Gildart’s try.
“I hope you all realise you’ve got a pretty special footy team,” Bennett said.
Wayne Bennett described Oliver Gildart’s as a ‘greatc entre’s four pointer.’Source:Getty Images
Defeat was tough on Jesse Bromwichand the Kiwis.Source:Getty Images
“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.
“It was a wonderful game and the boys have given everything they’ve got. It was important for both teams to play like we did today to show everybody that it’s a full-on Test series.
“It’s the best of three games and I’ve no doubt next week won’t be any easier, it will be tougher because New Zealand will want to win.”
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire, who remained tight-lipped about his coaching future ahead of his expected announcement by the Wests Tigers this week, refused to be drawn in his thoughts on the penalty try.
“I’ll have to have another look before make a comment, but it’s one of those moments you’ve got to be able to handle and get through,” 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.
The teams meet at Anfield for the second Test next Monday (1.30am EDT).
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Originally published as Bennett delighted as ‘special’ England beat Kiwis
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