Senior moment seals victory for Britain

Great Britain 24 - Australia 12
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The Independent Online

An inspired first-half spell that brought them three tries and an equally inspired defensive effort after the interval took Great Britain into the final of the Tri-Nations.

An inspired first-half spell that brought them three tries and an equally inspired defensive effort after the interval took Great Britain into the final of the Tri-Nations.

After seven defeats by Australia in a row, the last four of them heartbreakingly late and by narrow margins, Great Britain finally got it right at Wigan last night, although they did it the hard way.

Battered for the first 20 minutes, they roared back at Australia with tries from Terry Newton, Stuart Reardon and Stuart Fielden.

They then had to work non-stop in the second half to prevent a seemingly inevitable Australian resurgence before making it safe with Keith Senior's try three minutes from time. It was a victory achieved not only against the weight of possession, but also despite the effects of a virus at the team hotel that saw six players on drips at various stages of the week.

"Considering the disease we have had in the camp, we had people running on fresh air out there, which made it all the more remarkable," said their proud coach, Brian Noble.

The British captain, Andy Farrell, called it "one of the best defensive displays I've ever been involved in", and Australia's coach, Wayne Bennett, insisted that it was Great Britain's qualities rather than any deficiencies in his own side's performance that decided the result.

"That's the best game we've played since we've been on tour," he said. "They were wonderful the way they kept turning up in defence," he said.

Eight surviving members of the Great Britain team that won the first World Cup exactly 50 years ago were paraded on the field before the match. A chance to stake a claim for their own piece of history did not have an immediately inspiring effect on their modern day successors though, because Australia dominated the first 20 minutes.

The home side had already needed to force the dangerous Willie Tonga into touch before the Kangaroos claimed the game's first try after 13 minutes. Brett Kimmorley's perfectly judged cross-kick allowed Luke Rooney to come in off his wing, take the ball cleanly and score.

Newton started the British revival by slipping a clever pass out of the tackle to Sean Long, whose jinking run took him into the heart of the Australian defence. Paul Sculthorpe kicked on the last tackle, the ball skimmed off Long and waited conveniently in the in-goal area for Newton to win the chase and touch it down.

Farrell's conversion brought the scores level, and three minutes later Britain, who had been hanging on so grimly, were ahead.

This time it was an enterprising piece of play on the last tackle that was responsible, Farrell throwing a cut-out pass to Reardon on the left wing. He appeared to have hesitated fatally instead of going for the corner, but his footwork enabled him to cut inside and plant the ball on the line as the defenders closed in.

Better still, Farrell landed the conversion from the touchline. With most of the crowd hoping they would shove the ball up their jerseys and hang on to half-time, Britain scored a truly remarkable try. Long had the vision to throw the pass to Martin Gleeson, and Danny McGuire was there in support on his inside shoulder. Newton carried on the move and then the prop-forward Fielden, of all people, was there to finish the job.

Farrell kicked the goal and Britain went off to a standing ovation with a 12-point lead.

Australia hit back at the start of the second half, Mark O'Meley scoring from Kimmorley's short pass, and they could have had another when Craig Wing and Anthony Minichiello split the British defence. McGuire then made a wonderful run but passed inside rather than going for glory. That left him and his team-mates to tackle non-stop to protect their lead.

Just when it seemed that their heroic efforts could carry them no further, Senior seized upon a ball released by Scott Hill in midfield and raced 50 yards for the clinching try.

Great Britain: Wellens (St Helens); Carney (Wigan), Gleeson (Warrington), Senior (Leeds), Reardon (Bradford); McGuire (Leeds), Long (St Helens); Fielden (Bradford), Newton (Wigan), Morley (Sydney) Peacock (Bradford), Farrell (Wigan, capt), Sculthorpe (St Helens).

Substitutes used: Johnson (Bradford), Bailey (Leeds), O'Loughlin (Wigan), Ellis (Wakefield).

Australia: Minichiello (Sidney); Sing (N Queensland), Berrigan (Brisbane), Tonga (Canterbury), Rooney (Penrith); Hill (Melbourne), Kimmorley (Cronulla); Webcke (Brisbane), Buderus (Newcastle, capt), Civoniceva (Brisbane), Fitzgibbon (Sydney), Hindmarsh (Parramatta), Carroll (Brisbane).

Substitutes used: Wing (Sydney), Ryan (Canterbury), Mason (Canterbury), O'Meley (Canterbury).

Referee: G Black (New Zealand).