Nikorima Kiwis' secret weapon
New Zealand rookie Kodi Nikorima has revealed he had to keep secret his 11th hour selection for the series-equalling win over England from even his doting parents, who were in England to see him play.
The 21-year-old Brisbane utility was a shock selection at halfback ahead of Tui Lolohea an hour before kick-off in the Second Test at London's Olympic Stadium and played a key role in the Kiwis' tough 9-2 win in front of 44,393 fans.
Nikorima told NRL.com the only person he initially told was his partner Briana in Australia, with his parents Deb and Kelly in the dark until very late on match eve.
"Mooks [coach Stephen Kearney] pulled me aside on Thursday after a function and told me that I was playing," he said.
"10 minutes after that he told the group. If there's pressure on me, I'll take it. That's why you play rugby league, especially as a half.
"I didn't really tell anyone aside from my girlfriend back home. It was definitely emotional for me.
"I've got my parents here. They leave tomorrow, they won't be here for the last game. I gave them my jersey after the game.
"I didn't tell them until late last night, just so they wouldn't bother texting me today."
Kearney – who coaches Nikorima at the Broncos - described the decision to drop Lolohea, who trained in the position before the touring party was even announced and filled the seven shirt for the first two matches on tour, as one of the toughest of his career.
"I just got a feeling over the course of the week that Kodi would handle the decision a little bit better," Kearney said.
"I thought he was pretty good. I told both the players in the team on Thursday.
"It was a big decision in the sense that Tui had done nothing wrong. I've got to reinforce that. It's just that I thought for this game, Kodi would be a better fit."
As in game one, the Test swung on a video refereeing decision.
After Jordan Kahu's disallowed try in Hull, this time the decision went New Zealand's way when James Graham flopped on Josh Hodgson's kick 11 minutes from fulltime – right next to the posts.
England only needed a draw to win the Baskerville Shield under tournament rules.
NRL referee sent it upstairs a try but video referees Phil Bentham and James Child found that he didn't ground the ball cleanly. Canterbury's Graham appeared to be knocked out, something which coach Steve McNamara said he was unsure of.
The try was disallowed and New Zealand centre Jordan Kahu later added a field goal to make sure of victory.
Asked if the call was decisive, McNamara said: "Of course it was.
"Who knows what would have happened but I think it was very decisive – James is confident he scored, the referee thought he scored but sometimes it doesn't go your way.
"They must have found something very conclusive to disallow it. I'd have to back their judgment on that but it seems strange.
"When James had his try disallowed, it would have put us in a drawn situation. I think that would have been a tremendous finish to the game, there were seven minutes left, to see which team would have come over the top of the other team."
The only try of the match came two minutes into the second half when Nikorima offloaded in a tackle and Tohu Harris' light hands took a difficult catch before shovelling the ball out to winger Shaun Kenny Dowall who scored.
Kearney's decision to not criticise last week's video refereeing decision, because one might go his way this week, proved prescient.
"I didn't see comprehensive downward movement from the hands [by Graham) but I think that's football, isn't it?" said Kearney
"There were a couple of calls that didn't go our way last week. We were fortunate today. Hopefully we can get an even share of the luck next Saturday and the best team wins."
Neither side reported major injuries. The refereeing appointment for the sold-out DW Stadium on Saturday will be between Sutton and Englishman Ben Thaler.