WINNING captain Sean O’Loughlin hailed England’s 2-1 series victory against New Zealand as “massive.”
England beat New Zealand 20-14 at the DW Stadium to claim their first major competition triumph since shelving the Great Britain shirt in 2007.
O’Loughlin, who was named man of the series, said: “Captaining my country to a series win is massive. It gives a lot of the boys, especially the youngsters in the side, confidence that they can beat the Australians and Kiwis.
“There are a lot of boys who have come up short on a number of occasions so the confidence we can take from this is massive.”
Coach Steve McNamara has suffered a number of near misses in his five years in charge of the national team but his side held their nerve to secure a notable success against the Four Nations champions.
Kiwis edged to a 9-2 victory at the Olympic Stadium last weekend and points were at a premium again in the first half at Wigan, with England going into the break 8-6 to the good after Gareth Widdop slotted over an early penalty and Elliott Whitehead and Jason Nightingale exchanged tries.
England had to withstand incessant New Zealand pressure early in the second period but Whitehead crossed for his second try to give the hosts a cushion and captain O’Loughlin crossed to put his side out of sight.
New Zealand kept going and scored twice in the last five minutes through Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jordan Kahu but England closed out a nervy win to the delight of McNamara.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said McNamara, who refused to be drawn on his future as England coach. “The players completely deserve it after working tirelessly.
“Success hasn’t until this point come for the team but thankfully they’ve finally got what they deserve.
“New Zealand are the number one team in the world and have dominated international rugby league in a physical sense. We’ve been able to match that in three consecutive games.
“I don’t think I’ve seen three games with as much attrition in them as these three. At times the games lacked a little bit of quality in terms of finesse but the conditions have really dictated that.
“We’ve got quality and experience to add to our group. We’ve got a good, young bunch that is ready to play for a number of years so the signs are pretty strong for us moving forward, particularly now we’ve got across the line.”
The two sides will meet again in next year’s Four Nations, which is completed by Australia and Scotland.
New Zealand arrived in England last month without a host of key players and Stephen Kearney admitted his inexperienced side were not quite good enough to head home with a series victory.
“I’m more disappointed than frustrated,” the Kiwis head coach said.
“Today’s contest was a bit like the whole tournament - a real see-saw affair.
“We didn’t play our best game today but what I did like is they had some real resolve about the group.
“We just made life hard for ourselves but I don’t want to take anything away from England. They’ve been wonderful the whole tournament.
“We’re a better footy team than that. There’s some young guys here who need to take a lesson from today and the tournament in the sense that Test match footy is tough.”