Morley's sudden act of Ashes madness

Magic moments that made 2003 memorable
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The Independent Online

JJB Stadium, Wigan Saturday, 8 November

It was not so much a magic moment as a tragic moment, but it was the one that defined Great Britain's failure to grasp their best chance for decades to regain the Ashes.

David Waite's side went into the series full of confidence. Injuries meant that Australia had sent over their weakest team for many years, and Great Britain were almost at full strength, including the Australian-based Adrian Morley, whose form in 2003 made him the most intimidating forward in world rugby league. Instead of worrying about their power and destructive force, it seemed that the Lions finally had the man who could set the tone. It took just seconds of the first Test at Wigan for that theory to go disastrously wrong.

Sean Long kicked off, Robbie Kearns took the ball and Morley, feeling the need to make his first tackle a big one, went charging in. Kearns saw him coming and it was his movement away and down that brought his jaw into contact with Morley's swinging arm. It looked ugly, but there was no malice in it. You could see the English referee, Steve Gannson, wrestling with himself, wondering if there was any way of leaving Morley on the field. For a moment, it looked as though he might play on, but Kearns was crumpled on the ground.

When he stopped play, the advice he received from his touch judge and from the fourth official in the stand was unequivocal. It was a bad one and Morley had to go; his dismissal was timed at a Test-record 12 seconds, although the impact had come after a mere couple.

That sending-off did not lose the Ashes, although it led into a string of events that probably did. Already without one forward, Waite unaccountably used another - Barrie McDermott - for only three minutes. Even with that extra workload on 15 men, Great Britain only just lost by 22-18.

Waite got in a tangle again with his substitutions in the second and third Tests, both lost by narrow margins. We will never know what would have happened if Adrian Morley had made his first tackle a steady, regulation effort, but his side would certainly not have lost 3-0.