4NTV England earn final spot
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England earn final spot
England produced a performance brimming with confidence and class to demolish reigning Gillette Four Nations champions New Zealand 28-6 in their last group match to secure a meeting with Australia in next Saturday's final.
Jamie Peacock's men dominated the clash at Hull's KC Stadium from start to finish to delight a near-capacity crowd of 23,447 and raise hopes that they can finally end their 41-year wait for a series triumph over the Kangaroos at Elland Road in seven days' time.
England ran in tries through wingers Tom Briscoe and Ryan Hall, prop James Graham and electrifying full-back Sam Tomkins, with man of the match Kevin Sinfield kicking six goals from six attempts.
There was not a weak link in an England side that looked full of energy and invention but coach Steve McNamara is still likely to find a place next week for second rower Gareth Ellis, who sat out this match after failing to recover from a back injury.
New Zealand suffered a pre-match blow of their own, with prop Fuifui Moimoi ruling himself out with an ankle injury, but coach Stephen Kearney will have been disappointed with his side's inability to match their opponents in any area of the game.
England managed to quell the big Kiwi forwards and snuff out the threat of skipper Benji Marshall.
They also profited from the Kiwis' indiscipline - and a 7-2 penalty count - to dominate the first half after surviving an early scare with the only moment of indecision from Tomkins.
When the Wigan full-back hesitated to go for Marshall's high kick, the ball found New Zealand forward Adam Blair and he sent scrum-half Kieran Foran over only for the try to be disallowed by video referee Ian Smith for offside.
It was the only time the Kiwis seriously threatened the England tryline in the first half, with the action concentrated almost exclusively inside the visitors' half.
Tomkins was never far from the ball and Rangi Chase, too, was never out of the action, with both players coming in for plenty of attention from the big Kiwi forwards.
Ben Matulino, Jeremy Smith and Issac Luke were all placed on report by referee Matt Cecchin for appearing to exceed the accepted level of physicality.
Chase, who caused controversy by switching his allegiance from New Zealand, was involved in an early scuffle with his old school-mate Marshall and also exchanged punches with Luke on the stroke of half-time but he was always going to have the last laugh.
England had all the attacking ideas and Tomkins brought the crowd to its feet with a scything run through the heart of the New Zealand defence midway through the first half.
The excellent Ben Westwood, Sinfield and Graham all breached the Kiwis' line without being able to ground the ball but the pressure finally told on 27 minutes when England moved the ball to the left and Kirk Yeaman got Briscoe over unopposed at the corner.
Sinfield landed the touchline conversion and extended his side's lead to 8-0 at the break with a penalty.
New Zealand were forced into an early reshuffle after losing full-back Kevin Locke with an arm injury and, although he was able to return half an hour later, he never fully recovered and went off for good after an hour.
With Gerard Beale deputising at full-back and second rower Elijah Taylor switching to centre, the Kiwis lacked punch on attack, where they relied almost exclusively on the craft of Marshall.
It was no surprise when England extended their lead four minutes into the second half, with Jack Reed collecting Sinfield's high kick and combining with Ben Westwood to get the in-form Hall over for his third try in as many matches with another clinical finish.
New Zealand briefly threatened a comeback when Marshall's long pass got Jason Nightingale over at the corner and the skipper converted from the touchline but England never really looked like relinquishing their grip.
They were forced to concede two goal-line drop-outs but Sinfield edged his side closer to victory with a second penalty after 65 minutes and England made sure when Graham forced his way over for a deserved try after Briscoe set up the position with a break out of defence.
Graham then helped pile on the agony for the visitors when he put Jamie Jones-Buchanan into a gap and the supporting Tomkins went over for England's fourth try, with Sinfield kicking his sixth goal.