Carney revs up before main event

Great Britain 26 New Zealand 24
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The Independent Online

Great Britain warmed up for the Tri-Nations final against Australia next Saturday with a strong second-half display that brought them a third tense victory in a row for the first time in over a decade.

Great Britain warmed up for the Tri-Nations final against Australia next Saturday with a strong second-half display that brought them a third tense victory in a row for the first time in over a decade.

Four tries in 15 minutes, two of them from the irrepressible Brian Carney, overturned the half-time deficit and will send them to Elland Road in reasonable heart, although they will not be able to afford the lapses that allowed the Kiwis to lead for much of the game and almost snatch it back at the end.

The home side took the surprising step of resting Sean Long, despite the limited amount of rugby he has played this year, but the real shock was that New Zealand dropped their most experienced player, Robbie Paul, from their 17 after naming him earlier in the week.

The Bradford captain has not been on his best form in the Tri-Nations, but this was an indignity he can hardly have expected.

Personnel changes aside, the question was how New Zealand, due to fly home today, would approach the match. A couple of early sorties from Iestyn Harris and Danny McGuire, the British half-back combination in Long's absence, put them under pressure, as did a one-handed pick-up and darting run from Sean O'Loughlin.

There was a blow for Great Britain when the Leeds hooker, Matt Diskin, was carried off after only 16 minutes of his Test debut. Two minutes later and completely against the run of play, New Zealand took the lead with their first attack.

Paul Rauhihi's pass took a looping deflection off Diskin's replacement, Mickey Higham, Ali Lauitiiti claimed the ball as the British defence hesitated and got it away basketball style for Vinnie Anderson to score under the posts and leave Brent Webb an easy conversion.

After 26 minutes they struck back. The ball went smoothly from Higham to Harris, but it was McGuire's searching pass that enabled his Leeds team-mate, Keith Senior, to crash over.

Andy Farrell missed the conversion and Chev Walker was held up over the try-line before New Zealand extended their lead shortly before the break. Again, Lauitiiti figured prominently, getting the ball away to Clinton Toopi, whose dancing run into the defence and one-handed pass to Nigel Vagana created the try, once more converted by Webb.

Carney was responsible for lifting British spirits after the break, taking them up-field with a 50-yard run and then being on hand when the ball came back across to the right wing, taking Martin Gleeson's pass to touch down.

Farrell's conversion crept over to leave Great Britain just two points behind. Ten minutes into the half, they were ahead, Farrell taking Higham's pass from dummy-half and powering his way over the Kiwi line, adding the goal for good measure.

The lead was extended when Great Britain again moved the ball quickly to expose New Zealand's vulnerable left flank, Gleeson supplying the scoring pass to Carney. Gleeson and Carney were soon at it again, this time unselfishly setting up a try for Paul Johnson and Great Britain were on their way.

Alex Chan and Shontayne Hape got tries back for the Kiwis as they showed some defiance, but they had left themselves with too much to do.

Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens); Carney (Wigan), Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Reardon (Bradford); Harris (Bradford), McGuire (Leeds); Fielden (Bradford), Diskin (Leeds), Morley (Sydney), Ellis (Wakefield), Farrell (Wigan), O'Loughlin (Wigan). Substitutes used: Higham (St Helens) Walker (Leeds), Johnson (Bradford), Ward (Leeds).

New Zealand: Webb (NZ Warriors); Meli (NZ Warriors), Vagana (Cronulla), Toopi (NZ Warriors), Hape (Bradford); V Anderson (NZ Warriors), Leuluai (NZ Warriors); J Cayless (Sydney), L Anderson (NZ Warriors), Rauhihi (North Queensland), Swann (Bradford), Lauitiiti (Leeds), Koopu (NZ Warriors). Substitutes used: Halatau (Wests-Tigers), Asotasi (Canterbury), N Cayless (Parramatta), Chan (Melbourne).

Referee: T Mander (Australia).

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