New Zealand 18 Great Britain 14: Lions roar all too late after Webb dream run

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The Independent Online

Great Britain had a late arrival in the Tri-Nations and started taking their chances too late to get anything out of their first game.

"We were tough enough, it was lack of skill that let us down in the end," said the wing Leon Pryce. "We've got to be critical of ourselves and admit that we let ourselves down. We'll have to improve 100 per cent to have a shot at the Aussies.''

That shot comes in Sydney on Saturday but Great Britain should be going into it on the back of a win over the Kiwis in Christchurch, having played well enough up to, but not including, the opposition's 20-metre line. Once there, stubborn defence and British ineptitude stopped openings turning into tries until it was too late.

The Leeds stand-off Danny McGuire should have given his side the lead early in the second half when he dived over the line after taking Pryce's pass. The ball came loose in a tackle from the Kiwis' outstanding full-back, Brent Webb, leaving McGuire hoping for a penalty or even a penalty try.

"Sometimes you get those decisions, sometimes you don't," he said. "But if we'd scored at that stage it might have been a different result."

McGuire believed that Great Britain should have been allowed more time to salvage an unlikely victory. "I was shouting at the referee a few times to stop the clock," he said. "You expect that the people in charge of the game should know these things." Great Britain were deciding last night whether to make the timekeeping complaint official.

There were good things about this performance. The pack did its job, with Jamie Peacock and Gareth Ellis especially impressive, and the debutant substitutes - Gareth Hock, James Roby and Garreth Carvell - all played soundly. But too many of the basics broke down. Sean Long kicked well enough, but a kick by Martin Gleeson led to Webb's try which gave New Zealand the lead after 27 minutes.

It still took a marvellous 90-metre run to bring the try and a taste of what Leeds fans have to look forward to next year. "If he wasn't a bloke I could have kissed him,'' said the Kiwis' coach, Brian McClennan.

McClennan's team, tired after two matches against Australia, showed grit when they were not playing well and got their reward with tries from Motu Tony and Iosia Soliola. Paul Wellens and Ellis finally got over the line for Britain in the last five minutes, but according to the officials there was no time to complete the escape.

Adrian Morley was sent to the sin bin in his first Test in New Zealand, 10 years ago, and on Saturday he was placed on report for a high tackle on Ruben Wiki and cited by the Kiwis for taking a poke at Webb. He was cleared on both charges after the game. "I'm obviously relieved that there was nothing to answer for, but I thought it was a game we could win,'' he said.

New Zealand: Webb (NZ Warriors); Tupou (Brisbane), Vagana (Cronulla), Soliola (Sydney Roosters), Vatuvei; Ropati (both NZ Warriors), Jones (Catalans); Wiki (capt), Fien (both NZ Warriors), Asotasi (Canterbury), Kidwell (Melbourne), Pritchard (Penrith), Mannering (NZ Warriors). Substitutes used: Tony (Hull), N Cayless (Parramatta), J Cayless (St Helens), Fa'alogo (South Sydney).

Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens); Carney (Newcastle), Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Pryce (Bradford); McGuire (Leeds), Long (St Helens); Fielden (Wigan), Newton (Bradford), Morley (Sydney Roosters), Peacock (capt), Ellis (both Leeds), O'Loughlin (Wigan). Substitutes used: Roby (St Helens), Carvell (Hull), Hock (Wigan), Gilmour (St Helens).

Referee: P Simpkins (Australia).