Makinson treble helps England win rugby league series vs NZ

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Winger Tom Makinson put on a show with a hat trick of tries for England to beat New Zealand 20-14 at Anfield on Sunday and wrap up their three-test rugby league series with a game to spare.

England twice came from behind, 6-2 and 14-6, to finally see off the plucky Kiwis, whose fullback and captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak threatened to win the game on his own.

Center Jake Connor made it four tries in as many appearances, and managed just one goal from his four attempts, but England outscored New Zealand by four tries to two.

New Zealand struck the game's first try just three minutes after a Connor penalty when Watene-Zelezniak sliced between Sam Tomkins and Oliver Gildart. Shaun Johnson's conversion made it 6-2.

With Johnson pulling the strings, the Kiwis twice went close again through right winger Jordan Rapana, but Makinson was rock solid in defence.

Makinson also came to England's rescue by getting his body underneath second-rower Kevin Proctor as the Kiwis pummelled their line.

England spent most of the first half defending and, in rare breaks, center Gildart, the match-winner in the first test in Hull, twice spilled the ball.

But the home side looked sharper when hooker Daryl Clark came off the bench and, after twice opting to run penalties from in front of the posts, their enterprise paid off two minutes before halftime when a cut-out pass from standoff George Williams got Makinson over at the corner.

From 6-6 at halftime, New Zealand went back in front just four minutes into the new half with an exceptional try.

Watene-Zelezniak was put through a gap on halfway by Kodi Nikorima's short pass and he toyed with the England defenders before sending winger Ken Maumalo over at the corner.

England's Elliott Whitehead  tackled by New Zealand's Isaac Liu and Shaun Johnson. Photosport
England's Elliott Whitehead tackled by New Zealand's Isaac Liu and Shaun Johnson. Photosport

Johnson landed the touchline conversion and added a penalty five minutes later to extend the lead to 14-6.

Tempers became frayed once more, fuelled by a late hit by substitute James Fisher-Harris on Tomkins, which seemed to galvanise England and the 25,000-strong crowd.

Deft passes from fullback Jonny Lomax and Connor got Makinson over for his second try in the 56th, and Tom Burgess bundled his way over the line three minutes later only to be held up in a three-man tackle.

The momentum was with England, and the inevitable leveller came after 63 minutes when Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead combined neatly to get Connor over for the third try.

Connor hit an upright with the difficult conversion attempt, but England had a chance to clinch victory when Makinson broke clear only to ruin the final pass to Lomax.

Makinson quickly made amends, though, stepping inside and wrong-footing the back-pedalling Kiwi defence to complete his hat trick, and Tomkins converted.

The final test is in Leeds next Sunday.

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England 20 (Tommy Makinson 3, Jake Connor tries; Connor goal, Sam Tomkins goal), New Zealand 14 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Ken Maumalo tries; Shaun Johnson 3 goals). HT: 6-6

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