New Zealand 18 Great Britain 14: Noble's team of nearly men

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The Independent Online

Great Britain paid a heavy price for their failure to take their chances in their opening game of the Tri- Nations. The Lions won several aspects of the battle but still contrived to lose the war.

"The execution of our last plays in attack just wasn't clinical enough,'' said the British coach, Brian Noble. "We're disappointed - we feel that we could have won.''

Britain's frustrating evening improved only at the end, when two late tries massaged the points difference that could yet be a major factor in determining who reaches the final. After the hooter, the British prop Adrian Morley was cleared on two charges that could have seen him suspended. Those were the things that went right on a night when too many of the things that mattered went wrong.

Morley's first indiscretion was in the third minute, when a tackle on the Kiwi captain, Ruben Wiki, slid high. In a hearing immediately after the match, it was ruled that he had no case to answer on that, nor on a later incident when he took a punch at the New Zealand full-back, Brent Webb.

Morley, no stranger to controversy in Tests, survived to fight another day. So do Great Britain, although their task will probably involve winning two of their three remaining games. "We were really positive in there and we know we can get a whole lot better,'' insisted Noble.

In all honesty there was not too much wrong with Great Britain's play. From the start they more than matched the big, rugged Kiwi pack and often threatened to break through in wider positions. They took the lead after 12 minutes through Sean Long's penalty and hinted on several occasions at adding a try.

Unfortunately this was the night when the right-wing combination of Martin Gleeson and Brian Carney, so potent on occasions in the past, failed to click.

Gleeson also figured in the try that gave the Kiwis the lead against the run of play after 27 minutes. Great Britain were pressing again and, not for the first or last time, found themselves with an odd choice of kicker on the last tackle. Gleeson's kick went straight to Webb, who slipped past Danny McGuire and set off on a 90-metre dash to the other end, beating Long's diving tackle on the way.

Great Britainsuffered their most crucial wasted chance nine minutes into the second half. Jamie Peacock drove the ball in and Leon Pryce ran at the defence and got the ball to McGuire on his shoulder. McGuire dived for the line, but Webb, who will be a team-mate at Leeds next year, knocked the ball loose as he came as the second man into the tackle.

Within five minutes of that let-off, a penalty for obstruction gave the Kiwis an attacking opportunity and Motu Tony dived in. The real killer came 12 minutes after that when a Stacey Jones kick was deflected to Frank Pritchard and Webb's break created the scoring chance for Iosia Soliola.

Five minutes from time, McGuire kicked through for Paul Wellens finally to claim a British try. ThenPryce's inside pass sent Gareth Ellis over for another converted try.

New Zealand: Webb (NZ Warriors); Tupou (Brisbane), Vagana (Cronulla), Soliola (Sydney Roosters), Vatuvei (NZ Warriors); Ropati (NZ Warriors), Jones (Catalans); Wiki (NZ Warriors, capt), Fien (NZ Warriors), Asotasi (Canterbury), Kidwell (Melbourne), Pritchard (Penrith), Mannering (NZ Warriors). Interchange: 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 (Leeds, capt), Ellis (Leeds), O'Loughlin (Wigan). Interchange: Roby (St Helens), Carvell (Hull), Hock (Wigan), Gilmour (St Helens).

Referee: P Simpkins (Australia).