Great Britain opened this three-match series with a win built on tries from two debutant forwards, Maurie Fa'asavalu and Sam Burgess, and a quite remarkable effort from Gareth Raynor.
The Hull winger raced 50 metres on what seemed a vain pursuit of Rob Burrow's kick but the ball sat up just short of the dead-ball line.
"We've seen him come up with those a few times and now he's come up with a big play like that at international level," said the new Great Britain coach, Tony Smith, of Raynor's try. "Rob Burrow kicked pretty well throughout and [Raynor] chased it all the way and got his reward.
"We did a nice solid job and we could have won by a bit more if we'd been a bit better in our execution on a couple of breaks."
Smith's Kiwi counterpart, Gary Kemble, declared himself happy two weeks after a 58-0 humiliation at the hands of Australia. "We've improved out of sight in the last seven to eight days, but we've a lot of improvement left in us," he said.
British plans were disrupted before kick-off when Kevin Sinfield, the main kicker and loose forward, was forced to drop out with a stomach bug. That meant a promotion for Wigan's Sean O'Loughlin, with John Wilkin making the substitutes a St Helens monopoly.
Within three minutes, the reshuffled side were behind. Burgess, the 18-year-old prop, went high on Paul Whatuira and the Kiwis chose to run, Thomas Leuluai then kicking to create a try for Shontayne Hape.
Britain took back the initiative when the Kiwis allowed Paul Wellens' kick-off to bounce over the dead-ball line, although the nearest they came to a score was when Leuluai stopped Keith Senior as he threatened to get on the outside of the defence.
Midway through the half, Fa'asavalu became the first Samoan to appear for Great Britain; immediately his strong run drew a penalty. That gave the home side another attacking position, but James Roby could not ground the ball when he re-gathered his own kick on the New Zealand line.
Britain were ahead after 27 minutes. Burrow charged down Leuluai's kick and raced away. He earned a penalty and Roby, on the last tackle, sent Fa'asavalu over from close in. Burrow landed the conversion and a penalty after Tame Tupou failed to play the ball.
Fa'asavalu knocked on from the restart, Epalahame Lauaki kicked ahead and Whatuira touched down. Lance Hohaia's conversion was the difference at half-time.
Raynor had a try disallowed for pushing at the start of the second-half but after 49 minutes Burrow put through that low kick, the Kiwi full-back, Sam Perrett, stood and waited and Raynor charged in.
Burgess was placed on report for a tackle that probably left Fuifui Moimoi seeing double; it was a symptom of the pressure Britain found themselves under. The youngster then had a much better moment when he followed Leon Pryce through to score his first Test try.
There was still time for a nail-biting finish and Hape got outside Raynor with four minutes to go. The Lions kept their cool, however, and took a deserved lead in the series.
Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens), Gardner (St Helens), Martin Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Raynor (Hull), Pryce (St Helens), Burrow (Leeds), Morley (Warrington), Newton (Bradford), Burgess (Bradford), Peacock (Leeds), O'Laughlin (Wigan). Substitutes used: Fa'asavalu (St Helens), Roby (St Helens), Graham (St Helens) Wilkin (St Helens).
New Zealand: Perrett (Sydney), Tupou (Bradford), Hape (Bradford), Whatuira (Wests Tigers), Tuiki (NZ Warriors), Hohaia (Warriors), Leuluai (Wigan), Moimoi (Parramatta), Halatau (Wests Tigers), Asotasi (South Sydney), Mannering (Warriors), Pritchard (Penrith), Smith (Melbourne). Substitutes used: Eastwood (Brisbane), Anderson (Warriors), Rapira (Warriors), Lauaki (Warriors).<
Referee: T Archer (Australia).Reuse content