McGuire and Reardon put Britain in sight of final

Great Britain 22 - New Zealand 12
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The Independent Online

Great Britain had their reward for investing faith in young players untried at this level as they roared back in the second half to take the Tri-Nations initiative from New Zealand.

Great Britain had their reward for investing faith in young players untried at this level as they roared back in the second half to take the Tri-Nations initiative from New Zealand.

After an ominous first half at the Galpharm Stadium, Danny McGuire and Stuart Reardon turned the match on its head in 10 minutes after the break.

It was the flair and spontaneity of McGuire that set the scene. After using the Leeds stand-off only cautiously from the bench in the defeat by Australia in Manchester a week earlier, the coach, Brian Noble, put him on from the start on Saturday evening.

It did not work perfectly. New Zealand targeted him defensively in the first half and the move to dummy-half to accommodate Iestyn Harris late in the match did not play to his strengths at all.

But, in between, McGuire showed how devastating he can be. His instinctive flick-on for the try that brought his side level was good enough; the electrifying break and visionary pass that set up the one that put them ahead bore the stamp of pure quality.

"I'm chuffed to bits," said the unaffected 21-year-old. "When you play the full 80 minutes you can pace yourself and set your stall out in a way that you can't when you're only on for the last 20 minutes. It's a lot better than sitting on the bench feeling like a spectator."

Mind you, McGuire's inspiration might have amounted to little without the finishing power of Reardon, the reluctant winger. Just a few weeks ago, the Bradford player said that he did not think he should be picked on the wing for his country, because he did not have enough experience in the position.

Even now, he is a reticent wide man, but he did not do badly in the role on Saturday. Apart from defending well, particularly when the Kiwis kicked towards him, the way he took his tries made him look every inch a specialist in the position.

He was just where he should have been to take Keith Senior's pass for his first; his second was more of a problem, as McGuire's long pass threatened to drop short of him. Typically, the low-key Reardon blamed himself for that. "I was probably too far out and I should have been going towards him," he said.

Instead, he managed to scrape the ball off the saturated turf, slide towards the line, regain his feet and touch down. "I prefer full-back, but I'll play anywhere he wants me to play," said Reardon of Noble, his coach for club and country.

This was not an even performance from Great Britain, but they had other heroes apart from these two young men. Andy Farrell, celebrating 11 years as an international, battled against the after-effects of a virus to give his team the leadership it needed. When he was forced to leave the fray, his vice-captain, Paul Sculthorpe, lifted his own game in just the way required.

Brian Carney never had a clear run on the right wing but for a man with a leg so dodgy he needed to keep running on it at half-time lest it seize up, his level of involvement was outstanding.

And yet, in the first half, New Zealand were on their way to a victory that would have made them strong favourites to reach the final of the tournament, for which Great Britain will now qualify with one more win.

Their enterprise and ability to get the ball out of the tackle, typified by the phenomenal young loose forward Sonny Bill Williams, who provided one try with the other coming from the Leeds second row Ali Lauiti'iti, had the home side in all sorts of trouble in the first half.

But, this time, Britain held it together and McGuire and Reardon applied the killer touch.

Great Britain: Tries Reardon 2, Newton; Goals Sculthorpe, Farrell 2, Harris 2. New Zealand: Tries Lauiti'iti, Williams; Goals Webb 2.

GREAT BRITAIN: Wellens (St Helens); Carney (Wigan), Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Reardon (Bradford); McGuire (Leeds), Long (St Helens); Fielden (Bradford), Newton (Wigan), Morley (Sydney), Peacock (Bradford), Farrell (Wigan, capt), Sculthorpe (St Helens). Substitutes used: Ellis (Wakefield), Bailey (Leeds), Johnson (Bradford), Harris (Bradford).

NEW ZEALAND: Webb (NZ Warriors); Meli (NZ Warriors), Vagana (Canterbury), Toopi (NZ Warriors), Hape (Bradford); V Anderson (NZ Warriors), Leuluai (NZ Warriors); J Cayless (Sydney), L Anderson (NZ Warriors), Wiki (Canberra, capt), Swann (Bradford), Kidwell (Melbourne), Williams (Canterbury). Substitutes used: Paul (Bradford), N Cayless (Parramatta), Rauhihi (North Queensland), Lauiti'iti (Leeds).

Referee: T Mander (Australia).