Britain's long wait ends as Senior seals place in final

Great Britain 24 - Australia 12
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There have been better Great Britain sides than this, but surely few that have shown more determination than they displayed in qualifying for the Tri-Nations final by ending the frustrating eight-match wait for a victory over Australia at Wigan on Saturday night.

Brian Noble's side had to spend around an hour of the game defending grimly against the world champions. If sheer guts and bloody-mindedness enabled them to do that, it was skill and adventure that saw them turn their limited supply of opportunities into four tries.

This was a night when every British player did his job, but the really significant contributions came from men who have been critical of their own input so far in the tournament.

Terry Newton spent most of the previous week talking like a player who expected to be dropped after a couple of uneven performances. He had his ups and downs on Saturday, but he got the really important things exactly right. It was his wonderful pass out of the tackle that sparked the attack for Great Britain's equalising try - which he also scored by diving through to touch down Paul Sculthorpe's kick. His support play formed a vital link for the third try and he also made the tackle of the match - on Craig Wing in full flight.

"He was under self-imposed pressure this week," said Noble. "But I wasn't going to change a winning team if I could help it."

Ah yes, a winning team. Great Britain can call themselves that, after winning two Tests in a row for the first time since 2001, but they might not have been able to do so if not for an extraordinary effort from Stuart Fielden. The Bradford prop is another perfectionist who has been unimpressed with his own form in this tournament.

"I thought I was terrible," he said. "By my own standards, I've been very, very poor. But if I can play poorly and we win matches, I'll settle for that."

There was nothing poor about the way Fielden backed up a four-man attack as half-time approached - a traditional problem segment for Great Britain against Australia.

"I didn't know where to look, because there was open space in front of me. Anthony Minichiello made the tackle, but he slipped off and I did the SAS crawl over the line."

If Fielden's overall impact was not quite what he expects of himself, then he had an excuse. Along with five of his team-mates, he spent time on a drip last week, thanks to the continuing ravages of the virus that could have brought the squad to its knees by now.

Overcoming that added an extra layer of heroism to Saturday's efforts, but this was not a side looking for any alibis for defeat. The lack of a fully functioning kicking game doomed them to spend most of the second half in their own territory, tackling green and gold until it seemed that they would surely run out of energy and succumb in the last few minutes, as they have done so many times before.

But, after Danny McGuire spurned the chance for one breakaway try, Keith Senior stitched up the game with four minutes remaining. Senior has not really fired in this series so far, but he was there to show his class when Scott Hill tried to slip a pass out of the back door and rescue his side.

Anyone harbouring the cynical suspicion that Australia did not really care too much about losing this match needed to talk to them - and particularly to Hill - afterwards.

"I'm disappointed that it was my pass they scored off," he said. "But it was the last tackle, a couple of minutes left and I couldn't die with the ball. Those are the chances you have to take when you're behind the eight ball."

Those are the misadventures that always seem to happen to us, not to them, but Australia will have gone off to France with a new depth of determination to come back for the final on 27 November and put us back in our place.

They could have to do so without Craig Fitzgibbon after a last-minute brawl triggered by his elbow on Sculthorpe was placed on report. A ruling will be made on that incident today.

Great Britain: Tries Newton, Reardon, Fielden, Senior; Goals Farrell 4. Australia: Tries: Rooney, O'Meley. Goals: Fitzgibbon, Kimmorley.

Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens); Carney (Wigan), Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Reardon (Bradford); McGuire (Leeds), Long (St Helens); Fielden (Bradford), Newton (Wigan), Morley (Sydney) Peacock (Bradford), Farrell (Wigan, capt), Sculthorpe (St Helens). Substitutes used: Johnson (Bradford), Bailey (Leeds), O'Loughlin (Wigan), Ellis (Wakefield).

Australia: Minichiello (Sidney); Sing (N Queensland), Berrigan (Brisbane), Tonga (Canterbury), Rooney (Penrith); Hill (Melbourne), Kimmorley (Cronulla); Webcke (Brisbane), Buderus (Newcastle, capt), Civoniceva (Brisbane), Fitzgibbon (Sydney), Hindmarsh (Parramatta), Carroll (Brisbane). Substitutes used: Wing (Sydney), Ryan (Canterbury), Mason (Canterbury), O'Meley (Canterbury).

Referee: G Black (New Zealand).