Rugby League World Cup: England suffer last-minute agony against New Zealand in semi-final
Last Updated: 24/11/13 1:43pm
Shaun Johnson converted his own try with the last kick of the game to give defending champions New Zealand a 20-18 win over England in a thrilling first semi-final of the World Cup.
New Zealand looked to be heading home after second-half tries from Kallum Watkins and Sam Burgess turned England's 14-8 deficit into a 18-14 lead with 13 minutes to play.
The host nation stood firm as the clock ticked down until a high shot from George Burgess on Sonny Bill Williams gave New Zealand a penalty and good field position for their final set of six.
And half-back Johnson was able to jink his way through England's onrushing defenders and dive over to level at 18-18.
He then lined up a relatively straightforward conversion and made no mistake to send the Kiwis through to the final, where they will face rivals Australia.
England had struck first with a Sean O'Loughlin try in the 17th minute only for New Zealand to move in front with their young wing sensation Roger Tuivasa-Sheck touching down either side of half-time.
But, with Kevin Sinfield pulling the strings in expert fashion, England looked to have seized the moment - only for Johnson to deny them right at the end.
Change of plan
England coach Steve McNamara gambled on a new half-back pairing of Gareth Widdop andSinfield after axing Rangi Chase and he will be delighted with both players' contribution.
It all began so promisingly when Sam Burgess took a short pass from Graham and got O'Loughlin over for his third try in 11 Tests for his country. Sinfield kicked the conversion and added a penalty on 24 minutes to put his side into an 8-0 lead.
The Kiwis, who had cruised untroubled into the last four, were suddenly behind for the first time in the tournament but their response was to produce a subliminal moment that got them right back in the contest.
Issac Luke appeared to have ruined the move with a wild pass that was sailing into touch but centre Dean Whare brilliantly kept the ball in play for Tuivasa-Sheck to claim his first try. Johnson kicked the conversion and levelled the scores just before the break with a penalty.
England found themselves under pressure at the start of the second half after conceding a string of penalties and they soon fell behind for the first time.
Locke and Johnson combined to get the ever-dangerous Tuivasa-Sheck into space and he produced a devastating finish for his second try.
Johnson was wide with the conversion attempt but made it 14-8 on 52 minutes with a penalty awarded for an obstruction by Widdop on Locke.
Referee Ben Cummins awarded five penalties against England in the first 15 minutes of the second half but when they finally got their hands on the ball they immediately scored their second try.
Graham once more demonstrated his slick ball-playing skills and combined with Sinfield to get centre Watkins through a gap in the New Zealand defence.
Sinfield was off target for the first time but the try breathed fresh confidence into England as the crowd came to life.
O'Loughlin dropped Graham's pass short of the line and left winger Ryan Hall looked certain to score when put into a one-on-one situation but he lost his footing on the surface.
With Widdop, Sinfield and Sam Tomkins growing into the game, England suddenly looked full of invention and it was no surprise when they regained the lead on 66 minutes.
Sinfield's pass to Sam Burgess was timed to perfection to get the former Bradford man into a gap and he charged over for England's third try.
Sinfield's third goal put his side into a four-point lead and they almost scored again when second rower Ben Westwood found a gap and stretched out for the line only to lose his grip on the ball.
It proved a costly miss as the Kiwis piled on the pressure in the last 10 minutes - culminating in Johnson's match-winning intervention.
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- Chase allowed to leave camp
- England v N Zealand: Teams
- Burgess: Kiwis not invincible
- Vatuvei ruled out for Kiwis
- England turn to Widdop
- Nightingale ready for Kiwis
- Westwood up for Williams test
- Watkins eyes semi-final upset
- Unfinished business for Burrow
- Rivals relishing Wembley clash
- Charnley up for Kiwis battle
- McNamara believes in victory
- Ferres hoping not to miss out
- O'Loughlin: Wembley can help
- Charnley targets cup start