Great Britain 44 New Zealand 0: Smith prepares way for assault on Australia

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The Independent Online

Great Britain can justifiably claim once more to be the world's number two league playing nation after this ruthless destruction of a desperately poor New Zealand. This was a memorable victory in all sorts of ways, setting new records for the highest score at home to the Kiwis and the biggest winning margin anywhere as well as sealing Britain's first win in a full-scale series since 1993.

Beyond those statistics, it was also a win achieved in style, with some expansive attacking rugby to set up several of their eight tries. Equally important was the quality of the defending, with players still making try-saving tackles in the last few minutes when a comfortable win was already assured.

It would be hard to say which aspect pleased the Great Britain coach, Tony Smith, the more. All coaches love to see their sides whitewash the opposition, but Smith, who has brought a refreshing freedom of expression to the Great Britain side in his three matches in charge so far, promised to keep that sense of adventure.

"We want to take risks. It pays off for us in this country and I don't want to see us change that," he said. "It could be what takes us to the top at some stage." By the top, Smith means taking a series or a tournament from Australia, the country of his birth. He recognises that ambition is still a way off, but thrashing such a substandard New Zealand side is a start.

The win at the KC Stadium was built on solid foundations. Jamie Peacock, one of the players Smith hinted he might rest for the third Test at Wigan on Saturday, was immense in the pack, while Adrian Morley, who had such a mixed season with Warrington, has rediscovered the sort of form that enabled him to thrive in Australia's NRL.

The half-back combination of Rob Burrow and Leon Pryce again worked well and Jon Clarke, without doing anything flashy, made a neat and confident debut at hooker.

Smith also singled out a couple of other contributors. Paul Wellens, after his marathon season, was excellent in attack and defence from full-back, as was Gareth Raynor, who apart from missing one scoring chance did absolutely nothing wrong on the left wing.

The options on the bench once more served Great Britain well, with Danny McGuire making a particular impact in the second half. Not only will British rugby league finish an international season with a smile on its face for the first time in 14 years, Smith has the nucleus of his World Cup squad for next autumn.

Yet in some respects it remains difficult to judge the worth of this performance, because the Kiwis were woeful, confounding all expectations that they would bounce back strongly from their defeat a week earlier. They lacked any sort of direction from half back – although Thomas Leuluai had the excuse of finishing with a thigh injury that threatens his participation at Wigan.

Worse than that, there was a complete absence of the fire and passion you expect from a New Zealand side with its backs to the wall. Gary Kemble, surely a doomed coach, said that he will make changes for the third Test but his room for manoeuvre is limited and his claim that everything will be all right when they get their leading players back on deck for the World Cup rang hollow.

Roy Asotasi tried hard to set a lead but there were not enough willing to follow him. When the pressure was on the Kiwis were far too prone to make spectacular blunders, such as Clinton Toopi gathering a kick from his Leeds' team-mate, McGuire, only to throw it away and allow Great Britain to score one of their more spectacular tries.

Perhaps the dominant image of the evening will be Morley making a superb tackle under his own sticks and then, moments later, driving the ball upfield to set up the position from which Burrow finally scored after the ball had been through another half-dozen pairs of hands.

However the opposition are performing, that was invigorating rugby and Smith and his players deserve credit for producing it when it was needed.

Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens); Gardner (St Helens), Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Raynor (Hull); Pryce (St Helens), Borrow (Leeds); Morley (Warrington), Clarke (Warrington), Peacock (Leeds), Ellis (Leeds), McLaughlin (Wigan), Sinfield (Leeds). Substitutes used: Fa'asvalu (St Helens), Graham (St Helens), Burgess (Bradford), McGuire (Leeds).

New Zealand: Perrett (Sydney City); Tuiaki (Wests Tigers), Toopi (Leeds), Whatuira (Wests Tigers), Hape (Bradford); Hohaia (NZ Warriors), Leuluai (Wigan); Rapira (NZ Warriers), Halatau (Wests Tigers), Asotasi (South Sydney), Mannering (NZ Warriors), Pritchard (Penrith), Smith (Melbourne). Substitutes used: Faiumu (North Queensland), Anderson (NZ Warriors), Eastwood (Brisbane), Moimoi (Parrametta).

Referee: T Archer (Australia).

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