It was an attritional encounter at the Olympic Stadium as England Rugby League slumped to a 9-2 defeat at the hands of New Zealand.
In a low-scoring match, Jordan Kahu’s late drop goal for the Kiwis killed off hopes of a series whitewash.
The tourists – ranked No.1 in the world – blunted everything that was thrown at them but, barring a late disallowed try to James Graham, England rarely looked like breaching New Zealand’s impressive rearguard.
The two teams now go to Wigan on Saturday, November 14, for the series decider.
Coach Steve McNamara told the Mirror after the match: “We played half the game well – defence – but I’m very confident we can win next week.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the players in terms of effort. They kept our try line intact for long periods under intense pressure but they had to do it too often which limited the amount of energy we had with the ball.”
McNamara felt that Graham’s disallowed try – after on-field referee Gerard Sutton indicated he thought he had scored – was crucial.
“It was very decisive, and I’m not making a judgment on the actual decision but the video referees must have found something very conclusive to say he didn’t score,” he said.
In the first rugby league match ever to be played at in the stadium, the sides were locked together at 2-2 after a tight, tense first half that just didn’t ignite. Widdop and man of the match Issac Luke traded penalties, and it took a moment of outstanding skill to break the deadlock soon after the restart.
Back rower Tohu Harris showed terrific hands to send Shaun Kenny-Dowall in at the corner, leaving Kahu to convert from the touchline. This would prove to be the only try of the afternoon.
After Kahu later got the job done with a drop goal, New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney said: “The attitude we had in defence was the big difference. Right from the kick-off there was a difference in intensity and commitment when we had to defend.”