Lions' pride

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The Independent Online
Great Britain are doing their best to regroup this weekend after losing their first Test in New Zealand in the cruellest of circumstances. Beaten by two tries in the last eight minutes, the touring Lions could now lose a series to the Kiwis for the first time since 1984 if they go down in Palmerston North on Friday.

This is not a position they should be in. The 16 players who were involved in a gripping international in Auckland on Friday night did so much that was good and just one thing that was self-destructive. The price for that one error and the sin-binning of Adrian Morley is excruciatingly high. It was impossible not to feel sorry for young Morley. He merely did what other players had been getting away with all evening, but at the wrong time. What should have been a brief but memorable appearance in his first Test turned into a personal nightmare that will not be erased for some time.

Morley's misfortune should not obscure the general excellence of the British performance.They know that for 70 minutes they were a thoroughly good Test side and that should make the task of lifting them for the second Test a manageable one this week. "We've shut a lot of people up," Bobbie Goulding said. "We have shown that we are no pussycats."

Denis Betts, playing magnificently on the ground where his form for the Auckland Warriors has not always won over the locals, also took heart from the undeserved defeat. "There is a lot of improvement left in our team, whereas the Kiwis threw their best at us and, while we had 13 men on the park, we threw it back at them," he said.

As for the New Zealand side, it confirmed the impression it has given this year of being on its way to becoming a very strong Test line-up. The one disappointment was that there were only 9,000 people present to see such a compelling Test. This is a mystery only if you have never experienced the New Zealand Rugby League's complete lack of promotional flair.

At the closest pub to the ground, bedecked with Warriors' insignia and presumably a reasonable guide to the level of interest, they did not even know there was a match on, and yet the NZRL claims to have spent $400,000 promoting this series.

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