Great Britain lost their perfect tour record when they were held by a team of part-timers drawn from New Zealand's domestic competition.
If the Lions needed a reminder that the serious part of their southern hemisphere jaunt has begun, then a Test-strength side got it when they were embarrassed here by opposition several notches below what they will face against New Zealand.
"It was the worst performance I can remember," said the Great Britain captain, Andy Farrell, only slightly exaggerating the extent of his side's ineptitude.
This was a remarkable transformation for a side so full of confidence, built up during the preamble in Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Perhaps that was the problem; they were just too confident of their ability to dictate terms and play in any way they chose.
"We played very badly," the tour coach, Phil Larder, admitted. "We didn't play the way we trained. We didn't go forward enough and we were far too ambitious with the ball. The result was that we made 18 or 19 handling errors and if you do that at this level you don't expect to get away even with a draw."
The ease with which Great Britain carved out some early opportunities was no preparation for what was to come. Even when the locals took a lead through a penalty from their impressive scrum-half, Ben Lythe, who will play for Widnes next season, the Lions soon went in front when Bobbie Goulding's high kick eluded the defence and Denis Betts sent Anthony Sullivan in.
But basic errors allowed the former Warrington hooker, Tukere Barlow, and Jonathan Hughes to give the New Zealanders a 10-point lead, which was only trimmed by Stuart Spruce's 90-yard sprint to create a try out of nothing.
Gus Malietoa-Brown leapt above Sullivan to restore the home side's 10- point lead early in the second half, but when the strong running of Adrian Morley - one of Britain's few successes after coming on as a substitute - set up a try for Keiron Cunningham and Daryl Powell it seemed that the tourists might get away with it.
But their two-point lead was cancelled when Lythe kicked his fifth goal from as many attempts when Great Britain were caught offside.
Both sides went close to winning after that. David Bailey, looking better than he ever did with Wakefield Trinity a couple of seasons ago, hitting the post with a drop-goal attempt and Great Britain having a last-minute touchdown disallowed when Powell's pass to Sullivan was ruled forward.
"The players are pretty honest about these things and they felt that one was OK,'' Larder said.
That could not disguise the fact, however, that this was a woefully substandard performance. "We will play a lot better next week," he promised. They will have to.
Lion Red Cup XIII: Hohaia; Gardiner, Fakavamoenga, Malietoa-Brown, R Stewart; Bailey, Lythe; D Stewart, Barlow, Afoa, Edwards, Adams, Hughes. Substitutes used: Jamieson, Nelson, Kelemete.
GREAT BRITAIN: Spruce (Bradford); Hunte (St Helens), Radlinski (Wigan), Powell (Keighley), Sullivan (St Helens); Harris (Warrington), Goulding (St Helens); Broadbent (Sheffield), Cunningham (St Helens), McDermott (Bradford), Betts (Auckland), Sculthorpe (Warrington), Farrell (Wigan). Substitutes used: Tollett (London), Molloy (Featherstone), Morley (Leeds). Substitute not used: Cassidy (Wigan).
Referee: G Wallace (Auckland).Reuse content