England produced an outstanding third Test defensive effort on Saturday to deny the Kiwis the chance of becoming just the third official New Zealand side to win a series in the United Kingdom.
Playing in front of a sell-out crowd of 25,000 at DW Stadium in Wigan, the home side withstood a series of raids by the Kiwis to win 20-14 in abysmal conditions.
Coach Steve McNamara had made two changes, bringing in Jermaine McGillvary for his Test debut on the wing and recalling the experienced Matty Smith in the halves.
After being held try-less in its 2-9 second Test loss, England landed a penalty before a Smith grubber ricocheted into second rower Elliott Whitehead’s hands for his side’s first try in more than 100 minutes.
Desperate scrambling defence by England shut down threatening Kiwi attacks via left wing Jason Nightingale's flank but close to halftime the veteran had some joy. Given a shot at the left corner he spectacularly launched himself, leaping over England fullback Zak Hardaker to plant the ball exceptionally. Issac Luke’s side-line conversion was superb.
The opening stanza in the second half found the Kiwis dominating possession and threatening to take the lead but England turned up time and time again to turn the visitors away.
Eventually the balance shifted, England striking with Whitehead’s second try on the right edge to extend to a 14-8 lead before going further ahead 20-6 when captain Sean O’Loughlin drove over.
Time was running out but the Kiwis still held out some hope.
It was provided initially by fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scoring wide out on the left and was followed in the closing stages by Jordan Kahu snaring his first Test try. By then it was too late and England had prevented the 2015 Kiwis emulating the efforts of the 1971 and 1998 sides.
Match details | DW Stadium, Wigan
England 20 (Elliott Whitehead 2, Sean O’Loughlin tries; Gareth Widdop 3 conversions, penalty).
Kiwis 14 (Jason Nightingale, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jordan Kahu tries; Issac Luke conversion).
Halftime: 8-6 England.
Referee: Ben Thaler (England).
Kiwis | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; Jason Nightingale, Dean Whare, Jordan Kahu, Shaun Kenny-Dowall; Peta Hiku, Kodi Nikorima; Jesse Bromwich, Issac Luke (co-captain), Sam Moa; Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris; Adam Blair (co-captain). Interchange: Lewis Brown, Martin Taupau, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn.
England | Zak Hardaker; Jermaine McGillvary, Kallum Watkins, John Bateman, Ryan Hall; Gareth Widdop, Matty Smith; James Graham, Josh Hodgson, Chris Hill; Elliott Whitehead, Liam Farrell; Sean O’Loughlin (c). Interchange: James Roby, Thomas Burgess, Mike Cooper, Brett Ferres.