Rugby League: Daley in a different league

First Test: Supercharged Kangaroos give Britain the runaround as the curse of Wembley is laid to rest; Great Britain 14 Australia 38 Tries: Robinson 18 Tries: Daley 11, 29, 31 Lowes 22 Gower 13 Pens: Farrell 8 Mullins 49, 76, Smith 70 Cons: Farrell 18, 22 Cons: Girdler 11, 29, 31, 70, 76Half-time: 14-22 Attendance: 41,135
Australia, inspired by a first half hat-trick from the imperious Laurie Daley, put Great Britain firmly in their place in the first British Gas Test at Wembley. It is a place which remains several notches below the standard set by their historic rivals from the Southern Hemisphere. An honest and dogged display yesterday was nothing like enough to close the gap that has opened between them.

Britain gave Daley far too much freedom. On a day when the Australian side wore black armbands in memory of his grandmother, who died two days earlier, Daley produced a marvellous performance, slicing through Great Britain regularly and to devastating effect.

"When he decides to play, he's one of the best players in the world," said a rueful Great Britain coach, Andy Goodway, afterwards. "But what we have to concentrate on is improving our own game for the second and third Tests. The great difference today was in self-belief; they had it and we didn't."

Britain's chance to open the series with what has become their traditional Wembley victory came and went during a first half of violent mood swings, starting with Australia's first, rapid-fire brace of tries to wipe out Andy Farrell's early penalty.

Having taken that narrow lead, the home side embarked on their campaign of self-inflicted injury when Brian McDermott was penalised near half- way for not playing the ball properly.

One thing that the last 27 years of trying to beat Australia in a series have proved is that you cannot concede possession in situations like that without eventually paying the price and Great Britain did so when, after Ryan Girdler had initially stretched them to the left, Daley gaily dummied through a gap between McDermott and Paul Sculthorpe to score the first of his tries.

Great Britain gave themselves no time to recover from that before Paul Broadbent attempted a pass out of the tackle under the shadow of his own posts and succeeded only in presenting the ball to Brad Thorn. The line held for five tackles, but then slick handling on the sixth saw Craig Gower, Darren Lockyer and Girdler combine before Gower took the final pass to score.

The game could have galloped away from Goodway's side. Instead, they had their inspired burst of activity, starting when Jason Robinson touched down after Lockyer had failed to clear Bobbie Goulding's precise kick. It continued when Goulding, Mick Cassidy and Paul Newlove set up James Lowes to score four minutes later. Just as suddenly as they had gone behind, Britain were 14-10 ahead.

When they needed to consolidate before half-time, however, they let the initiative get away. The impressive Gorden Tallis started the rot with a storming run that took a series of tackles to halt. Britain's defence never fully recovered and the link between Gower, Girdler and Lockyer gave Daley his second.

Again, Britain compounded the damage by conceding another immediately after, dozing off to allow Steve Walters to retrieve his own short kick- off. The attack took Australia to the try-line and when the tacklers hesitated, believing Jason Stevens had not played the ball, Daley punished them again.

There were two fleeting moments early in the second half when Britain could have got back into contention, first when Goulding's kick almost finished in Lowe's hands, although the hooker was off-side, and again when the persistent Newlove was dragged back by Walters.

Once those opportunities had been snuffed out, it was a question of how and when Australia would kill off what remained of the contest. They did so after 49 minutes, Daley kicking for the corner and Brett Mullins jumping higher than the opposition to score; a porpoise leaping among men in lead diving boots.

With 11 minutes remaining, the dazzling Lockyer was twice involved in the fingertip handling that eventually sent Darren Smith over and five minutes from time, Wendell Sailor took the ball straight from a scrum, sucked in the tacklers and sent Mullins striding almost 90 yards to round it all off.

Great Britain: Robinson (Wigan), Hunte (St Helens), Radlinski (Wigan), Newlove (St Helens), Sullivan (St Helens), Farrell (Wigan), Goulding (St Helens), McDermott (Bradford), Lowes (Bradford), Broadbent (Sheffield), Joynt (St Helens), Cassidy (Wigan), Sculthorpe (Warrington). Substitutes: McNamara (Bradford), Atcheson (Oldham), Morley (Leeds), Sampson (Castleford).

Australia: Lockyer (Brisbane), Mullins (Canberra), Ettingshausen (Cronulla), Girdler (Penrith), Sailor (Brisbane), Daley (Canberra), Gower (Penrith), Stevens (Cronulla), Walters (North Queensland), Thorn (Brisbane), Adamson (Penrith), Tallis (Brisbane), Smith (Brisbane). Substitutes: Kearns (Perth), Greenhill (Cronulla), Nagas (Canberra), Kimmorley (Hunter).

Referee: P Houston (New Zealand).