Rugby League: Australia's tour is given stylish start by young bucks: Sailor and Menzies make show of strength at Cumbria's expense - Widnes force Sheffield to surrender scoring record

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Cumbria 8

Australia 52

AUSTRALIA unveiled their new generation of match-winners as they opened their British tour with their biggest-ever victory over a brave but hopelessly outclassed Cumbria.

In an uneven and at times error- prone performance, young players like Wendell Sailor and Steve Menzies established themselves as early candidates for the exciting new personalities of this tour.

Sailor, the 20-year-old winger and youngest member of the party, scored two spectacular tries, the second of them from the shadow of his own sticks. He might not, at least in the waterlogged conditions at Workington, match the raw pace of Martin Offiah, but his swerve and sidestep make him just as difficult a proposition.

Second rower Menzies shaded Sailor for the honour of being man of the match with some dynamic support play and a series of powerful breaks, while two more of Australia's new tourists in the forwards, Jim Serdaris and David Fairleigh, had admirable games.

The British-born Ian Roberts was equally outstanding and proved the key factor in Australia's flying start. Within eight minutes the Cumbrians were 16 points down and a Roberts pass had been a crucial part of the build-up to each of their three tries, from Paul McGregor, Sailor and Tim Brasher.

The ease of that start tempted Australia into pushing out too many speculative passes and their 15 handling errors in the first half showed how difficult it was to control the ball in dreadful conditions which also helped to keep the attendance down.

While the rust was apparent in some aspects, one facet of Australia's play that was in working order was their front-on tackling, which was as fierce and remorseless as ever.

Cumbria, rallying after their early shocks, even staged a small comeback with a try by Paul Burns after Brasher missed Dean Marwood's low kick and two goals from Marwood.

It was Menzies who put Australia in command again, backing up Fairleigh's break for a fourth Australian try, converted by Rod Wishart, who finished with eight goals from nine attempts.

Sailor began the second half scoring with the finest long range try Derwent Park has seen for many a year and clever handling by Serdaris and the captain for the day, Paul Sironen, sent in Fairleigh. Roberts claimed a well earned try from Kevin Walters' bomb, Fairleigh went over for his second from McGregor's pass and Serdaris completed the try scoring after Sailor and Menzies had underlined their impact by making the running.

'I was very pleased with the young players,' the Australian coach, Bob Fulton, said. 'The match gave an idea of what quality we have got there.

'There was a lot of dropped ball, but that was due to the conditions and the fact that a lot of these blokes haven't played for six weeks. It was a pretty good performance considering we still have to come to grips with different refereeing interpretations. I'm not complaining; it's up to us to adapt.'

There were two other areas of concern for Fulton, one trivial, the other potentially serious.

Australia lost two scrums on their feed in the first half, before Walters, an occasional scrum half, realised that it is bad manners for visitors to England to put the ball anywhere near the tunnel.

More worrying was an early departure by Glenn Lazarus, one of only three specialist props in the party, who aggravated a groin injury. He will have an X-ray today, but he is unlikely to be able to play against Leeds on Wednesday.

CUMBRIA: Routledge (Whitehaven); Seeds (Whitehaven), Pape (Carlisle), Burns (Workington), Roper (Warrington); Birkett (Salford) Marwood (Workington); Neill (St Helens), McCurrie (Widnes), Walker (Hull), Armstrong (Workington), Elliott (Warrington), Knox (Carlisle). Substitutes: Anderson (Whitehaven) for Routledge, h-t; L Smith (Workington) for Burns, h-t; Holgate (Workington) for Elliott, 56; Shaw (Barrow) for Pape, 62; Elliott for Armstrong, 64.

AUSTRALIA: Brasher (Balmain); Sailor (Brisbane), McGregor (Illawarra), Hill (Manly), Wishart (Illawarra); Florimo (Norths), Walters (Brisbane); Roberts (Manly), Serdaris (Wests), Lazarus (Brisbane), Sironen (Balmain), Menzies (Manly), Fittler (Penrith). Substitute: Farleigh (Norths) for Lazarus, 21.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).

Comments