Farrell's Lions look to the future after rediscovering their pride

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The outside world might wonder why British rugby league should get so excited about drawing a Test series, but it would be missing the point. For the foreseeable future, the only countries Great Britain will play in a full series are Australia and New Zealand and, until this memorable night at Wigan, it had been the best part of a decade since they had beaten either of them over three games.

The outside world might wonder why British rugby league should get so excited about drawing a Test series, but it would be missing the point. For the foreseeable future, the only countries Great Britain will play in a full series are Australia and New Zealand and, until this memorable night at Wigan, it had been the best part of a decade since they had beaten either of them over three games.

Avoiding that familiar feeling of defeat was justification enough, therefore, for the fireworks and "Rule Britannia". It was a long-awaited night of celebration for a side that had shown unmistakable signs of progress over the last three weekends.

The team might consist of mostly the same players, but it is now unrecognisable from the one that flew back from Sydney in disgrace after a record-breaking defeat in July. "It indicates that things are back on track," said the Great Britain coach David Waite. "The feeling is a long way from getting off that plane feeling sorry for ourselves in the middle of the year."

During the course of this series, Great Britain have advanced from a defeat caused by a second-half collapse in the first Test, to a draw that ought to have been a win in the second, to a victory on Saturday night that should have been confirmed long before it was.

The resurgent Lions dominated territorially and tactically; the only frustration was that it took them so long to stamp that dominance on the scoreboard. The worrying suspicion all evening was that, outplayed though they were, the Kiwis might snatch back the game and the series with a couple of flashes of brilliance. "We could have had 40 points from the breaks we made," said Great Britain's man of the match Keith Senior. "We were all over them."

The Leeds centre had one of his finest Tests, scoring the first try and repeatedly stretching the New Zealand defence down the left, but he was only one of a series of British successes.

From Gary Connolly, rock-solid at full-back and so close to his first Test try in his final game, to the forward 'F-squad' of Stuart Fielden, Andy Farrell and Mike Forshaw, who all put in 80 minutes of tireless activity, this was an effervescent performance. Paul Sculthorpe was again the force at stand-off that suggested that Great Britain would have won the series with something to spare if he had been able to play in the first Test.

James Lowes was once more a man inspired, Paul Deacon came of age at scrum-half and Adrian Morley got off his sick bed to contribute more than 50 minutes of his raw-boned aggression. And if anybody had said, at the start of the series, that Lee Gilmour would have looked so accomplished on the wing, he would have been dismissed as a crank.

With so many departments of the team operating so well, the wonder was that it took so long to clinch victory. Indeed, the Kiwis were still throwing the ball around looking for an unlikely equaliser when the final hooter sounded.

There were two reasons for that. One was Great Britain's failure to finish clinically on most of the occasions when they punched a hole in the defence. The other was New Zealand's ability to make something out of nothing – as they did for both of their tries.

The Kiwis finished a seven-match tour, made memorable by their flair and adventure, with severely-stretched resources. With hindsight, they might have sent home for replacements when injuries first started to bite; not that Sean Hoppe, brought out of retirement to plug the gap in the back-line, let them down in any way.

Their coach, Gary Freeman, had grievances over losing the penalty count in all three Tests, but some unsubtle holding-down in the tackle was a genuine flaw in their game – one persistently exploited by opponents who had done their homework.

For Waite and his men – after a well-earned celebration – the focus now switches to the visit of the Australians next autumn. With a few refinements to the preparations, like a warm-up game or two, they can look forward to that with far more optimism than seemed possible a few short months ago.

Great Britain 16
Tries: Senior, Gleeson, Sculthorpe Goals: Farrell 2

New Zealand 10
Tries: Jones, Lauiti'iti
Goal: Jones

Half-time: 8-0 Attendance: 22,247

GREAT BRITAIN: Connolly (Wigan); Pryce (Bradford), Gleeson (St Helens), Senior (Leeds), Gilmour (Bradford); Sculthorpe (St Helens), Deacon (Bradford);, Fielden (Bradford), Lowes (Bradford), McDermott (Leeds), Morley (Sydney City), Farrell (Wigan, capt), Forshaw (Bradford). Substitutes used: Orr (Castleford), Peacock (Bradford), Anderson (Bradford), Horne (Hull).

NEW ZEALAND: Vaealiki (Parramatta); Fa'afili (NZ Warriors), Vagana (Canterbury), Hoppe (St Helens), Meli (NZ Warriors); Hohaia (NZ Warriors), Jones (NZ Warriors, capt); Seuseu (NZ Warriors), Swain (Melbourne), Rauhihi (Canterbury), Guttenbeil (NZ Warriors), Wiki (Canberra), Betham (NZ Warriors). Substitutes used: Puletua (Penrith), Solomona (Sydney City), Lauiti'iti (NZ Warriors), Swann (NZ Warriors).

Referee: S Clark (Australia).

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