If Great Britain are to reach the Tri-Nations final they must do it the hard way after the embarrassment of a record defeat by a Kiwi side inspired by three world-class players.
Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki and Brent Webb dismantled the Lions ruthlessly here, leaving them with the task of winning in Brisbane on Saturday for the first time since 1970 to deny the Kiwis their berth in the final the following week.
"We didn't do the simple things we did last week against Australia,'' the British coach, Brian Noble, said. "For the Kiwis tonight everything seemed to bounce their way, but our destiny is still in our own hands.''
Great Britain had two tries disallowed and conceded one that should have been disallowed, but there was still a huge gulf in class between them and the Kiwi side determined to recoup the points they had been deducted for fielding an ineligible player.
This time it was Great Britain who had the players who looked as though they should not have been out there. They brought none of last week's form to a stadium called the Cake Tin and there were few crumbs of comfort. Things started to go wrong when Steve Matai threw the ball at Danny McGuire's head after a tackle and Matai and his opposite number, Keith Senior, were sin-binned for their part in the subsequent altercation.
The Lions were the worst affected by the absences, conceding two tries. Their defence worked hard to stop David Fa'alogo on the line but then failed to react quickly enough when Nigel Vagana picked up and sold a little dummy before managing to force the ball down.
Five minutes later, a move which had training ground written all over it took the Kiwis to double figures, two of the wiliest operators in the game combining for Wiki to supply a return pass to Jones, with Webb arriving on his shoulder to score.
Great Britain got into the game only through luck. McGuire's kick was down Manu Vatuvei's throat, but he somehow lost it to allow Gareth Ellis to stroll over. Unfortunately the tourists' effort was still littered with errors. Leon Pryce knocked on to concede possession and the sin was punished when Webb scored his second from what looked a suspiciously forward pass from Jones.
That close decision went against Great Britain and so did the video referee's verdict that Gareth Raynor had lost control grounding the ball immediately before half-time. "I'm pretty confident I scored,'' Raynor said, and his coach agreed. "I thought it was a fair try," Noble said. "If we'd gone in at 16-10 it would have been a whole lot better.'' But it would have taken much more to get Great Britain back into a contest in which they were hopelessly outclassed. Jones' kick bounced wickedly for Nathan Cayless to claim the fourth Kiwi try and Vatuvei made up for his first half error by getting on the end of a flowing move.
The Lions had the rough end of another decision when Pryce's try was disallowed for obstruction but the moment that confirmed nothing was going to go their way came after 74 minutes when Jones' kick rebounded from the crossbar for Wiki to touch down. "It's something we worked on in training,'' laughed Wiki, but the Kiwis were so dominant, their touch so sure that you could easily believe him.
New Zealand: Webb (NZ Warriors), Hape (Bradford), Soliola (Sydney), Matai (Manly), Vatuvei (NZ Warriors), Vagana (Cronulla), Jones (Catalans), Wiki (NZ Warriors), Halatau (Wests Tigers), Asotasi (Bulldogs), Kidwell (Melbourne), Mannering (NZ Warriors), Fa'alogo (South Sydney). Substitutes: Tony (Hull), Cayless (Parramatta), Blair (Melbourne), Pritchard (Penrith).
Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens), Pryce (St Helens), Senior (Leeds), Yeaman (Hull), Raynor (Hull), McGuire (Leeds), Long (St Helens), Fielden (Wigan), Newton (Bradford), Morley (Sydney), Peacock (Leeds), Hock (Wigan), Ellis (Leeds). Substitutes: Roby (St Helens), Carvell (Hull), Gilmour (St Helens), Wilkin (St Helens).
Referee: P Simpkins (Aus).Reuse content