England 20 New Zealand 14

England lift the Baskerville Shield after winning the series following the International Test Series match at the DW Stadium
England lift the Baskerville Shield after winning the series following the International Test Series match at the DW Stadium

ENGLAND ended their eight-year barren run to seal a 2-1 series victory at Wigan’s DW Stadium.

Test skipper Sean O’Loughlin powered over for a vital try in the 71st minute to put the hosts into a commanding lead.

And the hosts hung on to claim their first major series triumph since the Great Britain shirt was shelved in 2007.

It was a great win at the end of a pulsating game - easily the best of the three matches played.

Last week’s 9-2 defeat in London had allowed the Kiwis to lock the series 1-1 and - with so much on the line - the atmosphere inside a sold-out DW Stadium was electric.

The England players warmed-up wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Keep fighting Gaz” in support of journalist Gary Carter, who has been left fighting for his life following an assault in London.

After an immaculately-observed minute’s silence for victims of the tragedy in France - and a stirring national anthem performed by Lizzie Jones - the teams tore into one another with urgency and no shortage of needle.

Gareth Widdop booted a 4th minute penalty to nudge the hosts ahead.

Matty Smith - recalled in place of Wigan team-mate George Williams - managed the conditions well with his smart kicking and play, and for a spell England looked a real threat.

Jermaine McGillvary, making debut in place of departing Wigan winger Joe Burgess, made some promising strong carries.

But the Kiwis showed flashes of attacking skill, first when Jason Nightingale had a try correctly ruled out by the video referee, forcing England into a spell of desperate defending.

Some bone-jarring shots from both sides kept the action engrossing, and when New Zealand’s discipline cracked, it gave the hosts the chance to score the opening try in the 26th minute.

Smith stabbed a short kick through the line which Elliott Whitehead angled onto and dived over. Widdop’s goal made it 8-0.

Nightingale’s persistence was rewarded before half-time when he showed great awareness to dive over the covering Zak Hardaker to get the Kiwis off the mark. Issac Luke’s conversion cut England’s lead to a fragile 8-6 at the break.

The intensity dropped in the third quarter and, with the Kiwis in the better position, England looked like a side hanging on.

But against the flow of the contest, they extended their lead with a surging, powerful try from Canberra-bound Whitehead. Widdop added the conversion to give them an eight-point, two-score lead.

And then O’Loughlin powered through the line to secure the game - just as he did in the opening Test. Widdop’s conversion wedged a 14-point gap between the sides.

New Zealand proved pesky opponents and slick handling produced late tries for Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Kenny-Dowall - neither converted by Luke - but England were able to hang on.

England: Hardaker; McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall; Widdop, Smith; Graham, Hodgson, Hill, Whitehead, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Roby, Burgess, Cooper, Ferres.

New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck; Nightingale, Kahu, Whare, Kenny-Dowall; Hiku, Nikorima; Bromwich, Luke, Moa, Proctor, Hall, Blair. Subs: Brown, Taupau, Matulino, Glenn.

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Half-time: 8-6

Attendance: 24,741 (capacity)

Starman: Sean O’Loughlin