Great Britain will go into the remaining two games of the Test series more convinced than ever that they can beat this Australian side.
That they failed to do so at Wigan on Saturday night was due in large part to the dismissal of Adrian Morley - the quickest in the history of Tests - after the first tackle of the match.
He will face a disciplinary panel today that could rule him out of the rest of the series. If the penal members are feeling very charitable, they might conclude that the outstretched arm with which he felled Robbie Kearns was the result of over-eagerness rather than malice, that Kearns ducked into it and that Morley has already been severely punished by missing all but 12 seconds of a Test.
His sending-off was bitterly disappointing on a couple of counts. He would have been so useful as this dramatic match unfolded that it is hard not to conclude that, with him on the field, Great Britain would have won with something to spare.
Although he should always be an intimidating tackler, Morley has largely eradicated rank indiscipline from his repertoire playing club rugby in Australia. His victim was understanding in the extreme.
"He's a decent guy who plays the game at 100 miles per hour and that's the chance he probably takes most of the time," Kearns said.
Morley's coach, David Waite, also declined to criticise him. "It's part and parcel of football," he said. "If you're in the front row, you look to make that first tackle aggressive. It happened, they reacted and we just had to get on with business."
The 12 men did that so effectively that it looked as though they might repeat the feat of the 1994 team, who won the first Test at Wembley, despite having Shaun Edwards sent off after 25 minutes.
This time, the extra burden for the remaining dozen was just a little too heavy, although they still succeeded in showing how beatable these current Kangaroos are.
Much of what Waite did with his team was vindicated. Brian Carney had an exhilarating debut on the right wing, taking his two tries superbly, showing a huge appetite for work in attack and defence, but finishing up furious with himself for dropping off the tackle in the build-up to Australia's winning try. Richard Horne, playing his first senior game on the wing on the other side of the field, also did well, both there and when he switched to dummy half.
Andy Farrell marshalled his depleted resources magnificently, while the other player who had been under an injury cloud, Paul Sculthorpe, was incisive and inventive on the left. His combination with the ever-dangerous Keith Senior should possibly have yielded more end-result than it did.
The minuses should not be repeated in the Tests at Hull and Huddersfield over the next two weekends. Terry Newton was another player who turned the clock back to his bad old days with a lack of discipline. Two senseless penalties he conceded cost his side dearly. And Kris Radlinski had what was, by his exalted standards, an error-prone game.
The other player who will be dissatisfied is Barrie McDermott. Morley's departure messed up Waite's plans to rotate his props and McDermott was held back until the closing stages, then only given three minutes before Waite decided he needed the greater athleticism of Stuart Fielden to chase a short kick-off. It hardly smacked of a sensible use of limited man-power.
Nothing that happened, however, should affect Great Britain's self-belief for the next two Tests. Australia showed all the steely resolve you would expect of them, but little of the class and fluency of sides which have been coming here and winning since the Sixties.
On top of that, they finished with a number of players, including the pivotal Brett Kimmorley, battered and bruised. It is debatable whether they can get much better, but Great Britain certainly can.
Jamie Peacock, another of the Trojans in the British pack, phrased it as well as anybody. "It's pretty hard to take, but the good thing is that we get to play them again next week, hopefully with 13 men," he said. "They showed what a good side they are by having the pace on the outside to score in the last few minutes, but we can't wait to play them again."
That is exactly the way they should feel after this wonderful Test, but they should also listen to Waite's matter-of-fact assessment. "They can be proud of their efforts, but their efforts weren't good enough to win it," he said. "We need to improve to win the next one."
GREAT BRITAIN: Radlinski (Wigan); Carney (Wigan), Connolly (Leeds), Senior (Leeds), Horne (Hull); Sculthorpe (St Helens), Long (St Helens); Fielden (Bradford), Newton (Wigan), Morley (Sydney Roosters), Peacock (Bradford), Farrell (Wigan, capt), Forshaw (Bradford). Substitutes used: Anderson (Bradford), McDermott (Leeds), Deacon (Bradford), Gilmour (Bradford).
AUSTRALIA: Lockyer (Brisbane, capt); Minichiello (Sydney Roosters), Bailey (Cronulla), Wing (Sydney Roosters), Hegarty (Sydney Roosters); Gower (Penrith), Kimmorley (Cronulla); Webcke (Brisbane), Buderus (Newcastle), Kearns (Melbourne), Fitzgibbon (Sydney Roosters), Simpson (Newcastle), Ricketson (Sydney Roosters). Substitutes used: Civoniceva (Brisbane), Waterhouse (Penrith), Mason (Canterbury), Crocker (Sydney Roosters).
Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).Reuse content