New Zealand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
A FIRST home series whitewash over the Kiwis since 1951 was finally achieved with a flourish. The beaten New Zealanders flew off to France yesterday, however, suspecting that their defeat could have been even more painful.
Three tries in 12 minutes of the second half transformed a steady if uninspired victory into a more appropriate measure of Britain's superiority over the three Tests. Not just any tries, these, but the sort that were worth cutting out and saving; Jonathan Davies's 80-yard interception that started the runaway was worthy of turning a closer game than this.
The section of the match that gave the British coach, Malcolm Reilly, the most satisfaction was the one during which his side held the briefly resurgent Kiwis away from their line for 22 consecutive tackles. 'After the first six, I just knew we weren't going to let them through,' he said.
Better than that, Davies picked off a speculative back-flipped pass from Tony Kemp and showed that being the old man of the side at 31 has not robbed him of his acceleration by holding off Frano Botica and Richie Blackmore on the long sprint to the other end.
It was a try that put the spark back into Great Britain. Seven minutes later Phil Clarke, once more a towering figure at loose forward, unleashed Chris Joynt. The St Helens second row, enjoying the most impressive match of his first Test series, raced through the gap and, although his pass to Shaun Edwards was not the best, the scrum- half took it well and found Martin Offiah on his hip. Offiah, hitting full pace for the one time in the match, was irretrievably on his way to the posts.
The match was on its way to being saved as a spectacle and that process was completed by a richly deserved try from Andrew Farrell, who had a magnificent first Test at the not-so-tender age of 18.
Michael Jackson made the initial break, Gary Connolly took it on and Farrell and Jackson, again, seemed to have opened up what remained of the Kiwi defence. Another substitute, Sonny Nickle, arrived in support and there was Farrell on the outside to complete the move.
Farrell looked completely at home in this company from the very start. His team-mates wisely got him involved early and he went from strength to strength. The team as a whole lost their way after two early tries. The first, from Karl Fairbank, came when Edwards exploited one of an abundance of gaps in the Kiwi defence. The second was courtesy of Greg McCallum's ruling of a penalty try when Kemp floored Clarke before he could take Fairbank's pass a couple of yards out.
Not everything was going smoothly. The British captain, Garry Schofield, had to go off after 12 minutes with a rib cartilage injury that will keep him out for a minimum of three weeks and Daryl Powell, Paul Newlove and John Devereux were casualties later in the match.
Against a side with any confidence left, those blows and an understandable loss of drive after the series was clinched could have been dangerous, but New Zealand had little to offer. Two penalties from Frano Botica made a small dent in the lead, though that was largely restored by a penalty and a drop goal from Davies, by now playing just as well at stand-off as he had at full-back.
Davies has been one of the notable successes of what is important to recognise as a remarkable series win. If anyone had offered Reilly a result of 3-0 with margins of 17, 17 and 19 points in the middle of October, he would have snatched the extended hand with alacrity.
It was disappointing that a job done so well should end on a jarring note. In the last two minutes, Britain had Nickle sent off for an elbow on John Lomax when he was impeded in back-play and conceded a soft try to Jason Williams.
Those were late blemishes on 240 minutes of rugby which give a good deal of reason for confidence in the future, starting with the Ashes series next autumn.
GREAT BRITAIN: J Davies (Warrington); J Devereux (Widnes), G Connolly (Wigan), P Newlove (Bradford), M Offiah (Wigan); G Schofield (Leeds, capt), S Edwards (Wigan); K Skerrett (Wigan), L Jackson (Sheffield), K Fairbank (Bradford), A Farrell (Wigan), C Joynt (St Helens), P Clarke (Wigan). Substitutes: D Powell (Sheffield) for Schofield, 11; S Nickle (St Helens) for Fairbank, 13; M Jackson (Halifax) for Newlove, 38; A Tait (Leeds) for Powell, 40.
NEW ZEALAND: D Watson (Bradford); F Botica (Wigan), K Iro (Leeds), I Ropati (Auckland) J Williams (Canterbury-Bankstown); T Kemp (Castleford) A Whittaker (Canterbury); S Solomona (Oldham), D Johnston (Wellington), B Stuart (Canterbury), S Kearney (Western Suburbs, capt), Q Pongia (Canberra), J Mackie (Northland). Substitutes: R Blackmore (Castleford) for Solomona, 53; J Lomax (Canberra) for Watson, 53; W Taema (Canterbury) 73; D Lomax (Wellington) for Mackie, 73.
Referee: G McCallum (Australia).Reuse content