England retain Baskerville Shield

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England has defeated New Zealand 2-1 in an entertaining series in England.

The prize was the third Baskerville Shield in 14 years. England previously won the Shield in 2002 (after a drawn series) and 2007.

There was plenty of NRL experience on both teams. New Zealand’s 23-man squad was comprised entirely of NRL players, while England had five NRL players: Thomas Burgess (South Sydney), Mike Cooper and Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra), James Graham (Canterbury) and Josh Hodgson (Canberra).

New Zealand opened the tour with a 34-16 win over Super League and Challenge Cup champions Leeds, with a double to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

England won the first Test 26-12 at Hull. It was 12-12 at halftime, with tries to Tohu Harris, Sam Moa (NZ), Josh Hodgson and Brett Ferres (England). Ferres’ second try in the 59th minute and a try to captain Sean O’Loughlin broke the game open, with five straight goals for Widdop.

A week later, New Zealand leveled the series with a low-scoring win in London. Widdop and New Zealand captain Isaac Luke traded penalty goals for a 2-2 halftime deadlock. Shaun Kenny-Dowall scored in the 43rd minute, converted by Jordan Kahu. After 34 scoreless minutes, Kahu kicked a field goal to give New Zealand a 9-2 win.

England retained the Baskerville Shield with a 20-14 win at Wigan. Widdop opened the scoring with an early penalty goal before converted tries to England’s Elliott Whitehead (27th minute) and New Zealand’s
Jason Nightingale (36th minute) gave England an 8-6 halftime lead. Whitehead scored his second try in the 63rd minute, Nine minutes later, O’ Loughlin gave England an unassailable 14-point lead. A late try to Tuivasa-Sheck ensured a close finish, but England hung on. Widdop  kicked four goals from four attempts, finishing with a perfect 10/10 for the series.

England and Scotland will co-host the next Four Nations in October and November 2016. Scotland join Australia, New Zealand and England after winning the 2014 European Cup.

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