At first glance, all the credit will go to Bobbie Goulding. The St Helens scrum-half not only scored one try and created two more with his pinpoint kicking, he also landed six goals from as many attempts to equal the British points scoring record against PNG. That was by stark contrast with the fortunes of the Kumul hooker, Elias Paiyo, who kicked like a novice to score only three from eight attempts.
"He had a nightmare, but I was striking the ball well. I have been putting in extra kicking practice this week and I didn't let the partisan crowd affect me," Goulding said. "I just concentrated on the ball and where the sticks were." But Goulding was the first to admit that a victory sweated for in temperatures which reached the 90s with humidity to match was a team effort. An international agreement that allows teams to make unlimited replacements from their bench of four substitutes saw their coach, Phil Larder, make a total of 26 changes during the game.
It might have been confusing for us in the shade of the grandstand, but it allowed players to keep going in conditions that would otherwise have brought them to their knees. "It's a good job we had unlimited interchange, because otherwise someone would have died out there," said Larder, only exaggerating slightly.
The need for a respite was made even greater by the stomach bug that had galloped through the British camp in the days leading up to the game, affecting among others, Goulding and Anthony Sullivan, as well as Larder himself.
To beat a very good PNG side under those circumstances was indeed a sterling effort in front of a crowd both smaller and infinitely more peaceful than the one that rioted at the same ground last weekend. Great Britain got an ideal start, Keiran Cunningham capitalising on thrusts from Andy Farrell and Denis Betts to go over for the first try after three minutes. But then two glaring errors from Stuart Spruce allowed the Kumuls to take the lead with tries from Hull KR's Stanley Gene and the winger David Gomia.
They fought back to regain the lead when Paul Sculthorpe, another of Britain's outstanding players, flipped up a pass for Goulding, but PNG were in front once more by half-time when Bruce Mamando's kick bounced off Alan Hunte for Adrian Lam to go in. From that position, a good start to the second half was vital if Britain were not to wilt and they got it when Goulding's accurate kick was dropped by Robert Fio and fell for Kris Radlinski to claim the first of his two tries.
When Sculthorpe and the equally impressive Daryl Powell combined to send in Sullivan, the Lions looked for the first time to be heading for a relatively comfortable win, an illusion that was soon shattered by Ben Bire, a prop known as Bigfoot, who crashed over on the right.
A Goulding cross-kick for Radlinski, kept Great Britain in front, but two tries in the last six minutes made it a nail-biting finish, Bire charging over for his second and Fio sidestepping through with 90 seconds remaining.
Britain held on, with the firmness under pressure of Powell and Goulding's ability to organise and motivate his team-mates standing out as the crucial factors in a victory that was just about deserved.
Papua New Guinea: Sio (Lae), Kops (Mt Hagen), Bai (Hull), Tela (Lae), Gomia (Mt Hagen), Gene (Hull KR), Lam (Sydney City), Bire (Kundarwa), Paiyo (Canberra), Karl (Mendi), Yer (Mendi), Westley (Canberra), Mamando (Canberra). Substitutes used: Kundi (Lae), Tire (Mt Hagen), Ruing (Mendi), Batia (Pt Moresby).
Great Britain: Spruce (Bradford), Hayes (St Helens), Radlinski (Wigan), Hunte (St Helens), Sullivan (St Helens), Harris (Warrington), Goulding (St Helens), Broadbent (Sheffield), Cunningham (St Helens), O'Connor (Wigan), Betts (Auckland), Joynt (St Helens), Farrell (Wigan). Substitutes used: Smith (Castleford), Phillips (Workington), Powell (Keighley), Sculthorpe (Warrington).
Referee: S. Clarke (Australia).Reuse content