The last time Great Britain won a Test match in Sydney, Gareth Raynor was still at primary school. On Saturday night the Hull winger was one of the unlikely heroes when it finally happened again.
Raynor made two crucial interventions, saving a try and scoring one, as the Lions gained a famous victory to throw the Tri-Nations wide open. Raynor only played because Danny McGuire's injury saw Leon Pryce switched from wing to stand-off. With only one Test behind him, Raynor's lack of international experience was a potential area of weakness, but he was cool under pressure when it mattered.
Australia were threatening to regain the lead just before the hour when Darren Lockyer's kick bounced nastily to leave Paul Wellens stranded. Ben Hornby looked certain to score, but Raynor came racing across from the wing and hurled himself at the scrum-half, making sufficient contact to knock the ball loose and prevent him touching down.
Then, after Lee Gilmour had found a gap in the Australian defence for a try to put Great Britain ahead, Raynor scored the clincher, getting on to the end of a pass from his Hull team-mate Kirk Yeaman after the man of the match, Sean Long, had kicked and regathered deep in his own half.
It completed a win as memorable as that of the team of 1988 in a game which Raynor vaguely recalls watching. "I just remember Henderson Gill scoring that try and doing a bit of a boogie," he said. "I felt like doing the same thing but he's a better dancer than me.''
Raynor rated his try-saving tackle as the pivotal moment in the match. "I think that swung the game a bit, but I was well pleased to score the try," said the man who spent two years working as a postman when his career seemed to have stalled at Leeds. "One minute you're down because you're not picked," he said. "The next you're in. It's just about taking your chance."
Raynor and his team-mates were given little chance before this match after losing 10 of their previous 11 against Australia, but they showed a defensive resolve and an ability to seize opportunities that few expected.
They had plenty to overcome. An early punch from Willie Mason - for which he faces a judicial hearing today - broke Stuart Fielden's nose, limiting the Wigan prop's involvement in the game.
Brian Carney also went off, after straining his hamstring in a vain pursuit of Greg Inglis when Australia took the lead after 28 minutes. That try came from an intercepted pass thrown by Long, one of the low points in a personal contribution that ultimately included a lot more highs.
He began to balance the ledger when he set up the equalising try with a wonderful break and pass to Wellens, his St Helens team-mate. The introduction of another Saint, James Roby, also had an effect, his pace from dummy-half catching Australia on the back foot. It was his pass that gave Jamie Peacock his chance at the start of the second half, the Great Britain captain's strength taking him through a three-man tackle for a try that typified his commitment to the cause.
After Shaun Berrigan and Inglis had set up Lockyer to bring Australia level, it was a pass from Pryce that showed Gilmour the way to the try-line. Pryce was another notable British success, having been besieged during the week for having the temerity to say that he did not think much of Australia and prefers Blackpool to Bondai.
"I thought he did a huge job," said the Great Britain coach, Brian Noble. "It's quite unusual to have people following you all week. That kind of thing can distract you, but I always had faith in this group of people.'' The Lions justified that faith by holding their game together in the last few minutes - a time when Australia have salvaged so many Ashes Tests.
That was despite Long continuing his chequered evening by missing the simplest of penalties, before he initiated the try that finally made the game safe. Long, his eye stitched as a legacy of a high tackle from Mason, knew afterwards that he had proved his point about his ability to play at the highest level. So had the team as a whole.
"We showed we've got some pretty good players in our country," said Noble, who now knows that a point against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday will clinch a place in the final of the tournament.
Australia: Hunt (Brisbane); Tate (Brisbane), Gasnier (St George Illawarra), Lyon (St Helens), Inglis (Melbourne); Lockyer (Brisbane, capt), Hornby (St George Illawarra); O'Meley (Canterbury), Berrigan (Brisbane), Civoniceva (Brisbane), Mason (Canterbury), Hindmarsh (Parramatta), O'Donnell (North Queensland). Substitutes used: Smith (Melbourne), Tupou (Sydney Roosters), Kite (Manly), Thaiday (Brisbane).
Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens); Carney (Newcastle Knights), Senior (Leeds), Yeaman (Hull), Raynor (Hull); Pryce (St Helens), Long (St Helens); Fielden (Wigan), Newton (Bradford), Peacock (Leeds, capt), Ellis (Leeds), Hock (Wigan), O'Loughlin (Wigan). Substitutes used: Roby (St Helens), Morley (Sydney Roosters), Gilmour (St Helens), Wilkin (St Helens).
Referee: A Klein (Great Britain).Reuse content