Delighted New Zealand coach David Kidwell has hailed the character of his side after edging England 17-16 in their Four Nations opener at Huddersfield.
A Shuan Johnson field goal proved the difference in a thrilling display that disappointed an expectant home crowd at a sold out John Smiths Stadium.
But Kidwell pinpointed a stellar defensive effort in the opening 20 minutes as the key to the victory after England laid siege to their line but had only two Gareth Widdop penalties to show for their efforts.
“What a Test match, it had everything that is what Test matches are supposed to be about,” Kidwell said after tasting success for the first time under his leadership.
“England started off like a house on fire and it was just a wonderful effort from the boys.
“But we know we have to focus on the job in hand and we know we have a big game in hand.”
While Johnson claimed the plaudits for his match-winning display, it was the performance of the New Zealand forwards that paved the way.
Martin Taupau had a huge game from the bench and Jason Taumalolo was outstanding in an all-action 80-minute display.
“Our bench really stepped up, Kidwell said.
“The whole 17 played their part and that is what is you need to win a game against a very strong side.”
Johnson said he had been stung by criticism levelled at him after the disappointing loss to Australia in Perth and after a poor season with the under-achieving Warriors.
“We held very tough at the end there, it was a tough, gritty win,” Johnson said.
“I’ve copped it a bit in the media … I never doubted myself but when you hear things enough you begin to question yourself.
“I just needed to go out there and play a part in helping us get a win and It’s great to be able to do that.”
The Kiwis were forced to play most of the second half without Thomas Leuluia who left the field with concussion.
Kidwell said he would assessed over the next few days but hoped he would be fit to face Australia at Coventry next week.”