Inspirational Lockyer out after return of rib injury

Australia 32 - New Zealand 12
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Darren Lockyer was the difference between the two sides as the English leg of the Tri-Nations got off to a successful start at the home of Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. But the Brisbane stand-off was last night ruled out of Saturday's game with Great Britain and could miss the rest of the tournament.

Darren Lockyer was the difference between the two sides as the English leg of the Tri-Nations got off to a successful start at the home of Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. But the Brisbane stand-off was last night ruled out of Saturday's game with Great Britain and could miss the rest of the tournament.

At the weekend the Australia captain turned around a game that New Zealand had threatened to win. "We could have been looking at one point after two games," he said, after scoring one try and setting up another early in the second half. The job done, he retired to nurse a rib injury which has troubled him since April.

"I just felt that with a 14-point lead it wasn't worth taking the risk," Lockyer said, still hoping that he would be fit for Saturday's match at the City of Manchester Stadium. Lockyer will not be sent home and will stay with the team in the hope of playing in the final, if nothing else. Second-rower Craig Fitzgibbon was also ruled out of this weekend's match with a shoulder injury.

Lockyer has emerged as one of the great Australian players, especially since his move from full-back to stand-off. He took control of this match, scoring a marvellously instinctive solo try and then handling twice to send Willie Tonga over, but the Kiwis' coach, Daniel Anderson, does not believe that Australia would suffer unduly without him. "Australia have some players who weren't even playing who are pretty useful," he said, "and I thought their front row was pretty good tonight.''

Lockyer's link with the scrum-half Craig Gower started to flourish in this game. After the stand-off's departure Gower took over the direction of the side and two more tries came from his clever short kicking game.

New Zealand managed to break up Australia's composure with some ferocious early defence and they revealed some expansive handling to score two tries in the five minutes before half-time. If they had a problem in the first half it was that they conceded penalties at damaging times; in the second their handling let them down. "It was our own fault," admitted Anderson. "We just coughed up too much ball.''

If that was a frustration, then he shared with his counterpart Wayne Bennett an appreciation of the occasion. To fill a football ground in London for a match between two overseas rivals was a triumph for the game in this country.

It was a game that almost did not happen. The original idea of the Rugby Football League was to play safe and stage all the games in the north of England, but the decision to tap into the expatriate community in London was richly vindicated with a capacity crowd.

Australia: Tries Rooney, Lockyer, Tonga, Berrigan, Civoniceva; Goals Fitzgibbon 4, Lockyer 2, Berrigan. New Zealand: Tries Webb, Vainikolo, V Anderson.

Australia: Minichiello; Sing, Berrigan, Tonga, Rooney; Lockyer, Gower; Webcke, Buderus, Ryles, Fitzgibbon, Hindmarsh, Carroll. Substitutes used: Wing, Civoniceva, Mason, Timmins.

New Zealand: Webb; Meli, Vagana, Whatuira, Vainikolo; V Anderson, Leuluai; J Cayless, L Anderson, M Cayless, Swann, Wiki, Williams. Substitutes used: Paul, Asotasi, Rauhihi, Kidwell.

Referee: R Smith (Great Britain).

Comments