Northern Union 18, All Golds 25: Outstanding Burgess on verge of Test debut

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The Independent Online

On a night designed to celebrate the oldest relationship in international rugby league, one of the youngest players on the pitch played himself to the brink of a first full Test cap.

Bradford's 18-year-old forward, Sam Burgess, was the stand-out performer for a British side playing under the banner of 100 years ago when a Kiwi side first came to Britain.

Some powerful runs, skilful off-loads and rigorous defence caught the eye – especially the eye of the new Great Britain coach, Tony Smith.

Another to enhance his claim was his Bulls team-mate, Michael Platt, who, apart from problems with his footing on the dewy Warrington turf, gave an assured display at full-back.

Danny McGuire scored two handsome tries without really settling the question of whether he or Leon Pryce is the better bet at stand-off for Saturday's first Test at Huddersfield.

If the British effort was all about the implications for the immediate future, the New Zealanders, on a night of nostalgia, were largely about echoes of the recent past.

Two of their giants, Ruben Wiki and Nigel Vagana, had come out of international retirement for this, whilst the great Stacey Jones was playing his final game of any sort. The little general bowed out with a typically clever performance, kicking immaculately apart from missing two cracks at a two-point drop goal, and setting up the game's final try with a lovely reverse pass to Clinton Toopi.

Of the new generation, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Epalahame Lauaki and Chase Stanley, whose names might not be familiar here yet, could cause trouble over the next few weeks.

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