Wests Tigers’ England forward Chris Heighington says he can’t wait to face Australia in next week’s Four Nations final, and that his experience with England has proved he made the “right decision” to pledge his allegiance to his father’s country of heritage.
Roared on by a 23,000-strong crowd in Hull, England led just 8-0 at half time thanks to some resolute Kiwi defence, but posted a 26-8 victory to reach the final in a display hailed by coach Steve McNamara as “controlled, measured, efficient, effective”.
“It was a good performance by us, and we played for the full 80 minutes,” agreed Heighington. “Even though we got held up a couple of times in the first half, we knew we could come out pretty strong and get some points in the second half, and we got the result.”
With England improving week-on-week, Heighington insists his side have no fear going into Saturday’s decider against the Kangaroos.
“We learnt last week that Australia are beatable,” he said. “There were a couple of chances that we didn’t take, and we’re going to have to be better again to beat them in the final, but now we’ve got that opportunity.
“It has been the right decision to test myself at the highest level (with England). They welcomed me with open arms, and now it’s my turn to try and pay them back with a big performance next week.”
Hull FC winger Tom Briscoe, who scored England’s opening try on home soil, said his side’s encouraging performance against the Kangaroos at Wembley provided the boost they needed to defeat the Kiwis.
“Our performances have been improving and going into this game we felt confident. There were a lot of positives against Australia last week, we improved on that, and it showed in the end. This year we’ve really kicked on and looked like a side that can beat people and win tournaments.”
Kevin Sinfield, who enjoyed a perfect night with the boot kicking six goals, said England’s patience paid off.
“New Zealand are world champions and we’re very respectful of how they play, but we had a plan today to tire their big guys out, and our pack stood up. I called Jamie Peacock a warrior last week but all our forwards are warriors, and add to that some fantastic backs, and it was a very strong team performance tonight.”
The five-time Grand Final-winning Leeds captain insists the current England squad have far more belief than the side that lost 46-16 to the Kangaroos in the 2009 Four Nations decider.
“We had a taste of it two years ago, and I really enjoyed that game,” Sinfield said. “We were well in the fight for 60 minutes but we learnt the hard way that day that we have to play for the full 80, so that’s something we’ll talk about this week.
“Nobody wanted this journey to finish tonight and thankfully we get another three or four sessions to put some more things right, and hopefully be ready for next week.”