ENGLAND coach Steve McNamara remains confident his side can still win the Test series with New Zealand despite going down to a disappointing 9-2 defeat at the Olympic Stadium.
The Kiwis, beaten 26-12 in Hull, outplayed their hosts for long periods of the second Test, although they were restricted to a solitary try through winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall and McNamara drew encouragement from his side’s defensive efforts.
However, McNamara concedes his team will need to find more spark on attack if they are to bounce back in the decider in Wigan next Saturday.
“The result is disappointing but, like last week, there was not much to choose between two teams,” McNamara said.
“I was very pleased with the way we defended for huge parts of that game but we were not as good with the ball as we were last week.
“It was a real arm wrestle, a tough, tough game, and I can’t be more proud of the effort we showed to hold our line under intense pressure.
“I’m not too worried. I thought we played half the game well today, the defensive part, but the problem we did too much of it and it took too much of us.
“I’m very confident we can go to the DW Stadium and get the job done.”
Trailing 8-2, England looked to have given themselves a chance of a draw nine minutes from the end when prop James Graham, their most-capped player, won the race to Josh Hodgson’s grubber kick to the line.
Australian referee Gerard Sutton thought it was a try but video referees Phil Bentham and James Child disagreed, ruling the former St Helens captain had failed to ground the ball, to the derision of most of the 44,393 crowd.
“It was decisive,” McNamara said. “James is confident he scored and the ref thought he scored.
“Obviously it was disallowed so they must have found something very conclusive and I would have to back their judgement but it seemed strange.”
After being on the wrong end of a disputed video referee call to disallow a crucial try in the first Test, New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney expressed the hope that the decisions would even themselves out and he felt vindicated by the ruling on Graham.
“I didn’t see comprehensive downward movement with the hands but I think that’s football,” isn’t it,” Kearney said.
“There couple of calls that didn’t go our way last week and we were fortunate today so hopefully we get an even share of good luck next Saturday and best team wins.”
Kearney was also vindicated in his decision, made just 48 hours before kick-off, to drop scrum-half Tui Lolohea and bring in Kodi Nikorima for his first start in international rugby league.
“It was a big decision,” Kearney admitted. “Tui had done nothing wrong, I just thought for this particular game Kodi would be a better fit and I thought he was pretty good.
“One fella I want to give a big rap to is Tohu Harris, I thought his effort today was pretty special. He played 80 minutes on the right edge, left edge, through the middle.
“The attitude we had in defence was the big difference. It needed to improve after last week but I thought right from the kick-off there was a difference in intensity and commitment.”
Meanwhile, McNamara took the opportunity at the post-match press conference to send a message to league journalist Gary Carter, who is fighting for his life in a London hospital after being the victim of an assault.
“The England team sends its best wishes to him and his family and hope he makes a full and speedy recovery,” McNamara said.