New Zealand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
THE winning margin was the same as in the first Test, but there the similarities with Wembley ended. If Great Britain's victory a fortnight ago was a monument to organisation and efficiency, then the series- clincher at Wigan on Saturday was a timely reminder of the flair and enterprise within the British game.
A back line that always looked potentially devastating had that potential expertly unlocked by Shaun Edwards and Garry Schofield at scrum-half and the result was some of the most exhilarating rugby seen here in an international for many a year.
The feeling that the Kiwis would play far better than at Wembley proved perfectly correct. They were creative and dangerous throughout the first half and Great Britain regarded themselves as fortunate to be 12-6 ahead at half-time.
It was John Devereux who had done the most to produce that lead. Both his tries were extraordinary in their different ways. The first, after 11 minutes, came from the sort of move that teams work on in training but rarely manage to reproduce to such perfection in the heat of competition.
Edwards and Schofield flung out superb long passes, Gary Connolly took on the defence, brought Devereux on to an equally good switch back inside and the rampaging Welshman went through no less than six tacklers to score.
After that, it should have been clear to every New Zealander that trying to tackle Devereux around the shoulders was a futile enterprise. Five minutes before half- time, he overpowered them again and the try and the manner of its arrival proved the turning point of the match.
A telling break and pass by Britain's outstanding forward, Phil Clarke, sent Martin Offiah away. Dave Watson, who had been New Zealand's most threatening attacker and the scorer of their try after five minutes, brought him down with a perfect tackle. After Offiah threw the ball away, however, Watson's moment of madness sent the match dashing away from the Kiwis.
Watson is an instinctive, intractable player - a mystery to team- mates and opponents. Devereux was more prepared than anyone for the speculative, looping pass that he attempted. He plucked it out of Iva Ropati's arms and his curving run for the line was irresistible. So, too, was Jonathan Davies' kicking, a second goal from wide on the right going between the sticks.
Davies was also largely responsible for the second pivotal moment of the match. He admits to enjoying every aspect of full-back play except taking the high kicks, but the way he fielded one from Tony Kemp and made 35 yards through heavy traffic was stunning.
Duane Mann held him down in the tackle and Davies made another 50 yards with the penalty. With the Kiwis on the back foot, Schofield opened them up, Offiah showed his underestimated ability to keep the ball alive and Mann held back Devereux as he tried to take the scoring pass, but Schofield dived on to the ricochet from his chest to save Greg McCallum the trouble of awarding an obstruction try.
Great Britain were rampant now. Schofield put over a 30-yard drop goal and the substitute, Daryl Powell, played a creative role in two spectacular tries.
He took Schofield's pass and fed the mighty Paul Newlove for Offiah to finish a textbook team try. Straight from the kick-off, Devereux, by now playing in a state of fierce inspiration, subjected the Kiwis to further assault and battery. When the move seemed to have broken down, Clarke retrieved the ball and Powell's long pass sent Newlove careering through.
Two more excellent conversions completed the scoring and the series win, leaving the Kiwis with a miserable last week to play out. It was hard not to feel slightly sorry for a squad who have given hints of ability but who will be remembered as a hopeless failure.
For much of the game on Saturday, Watson, Kemp and Stephen Kearney looked capable of seriously troubling Great Britain. No one took the defeat harder than their captain, Gary Freeman, who played the second half as though he could rewrite events through sheer anger. When the rest of the players met on the half-way line to shake hands at the end, he stood, as near as he could to the tunnel, hands on hips, plainly disgusted with the whole charade.
Even one little cameo when Kevin Iro caught a tiring Offiah from behind deepened Kiwi frustration. Here was a man with all that pace to go with his monumental bulk and, unlike Devereux, Newlove and Co, he had done nothing with it.
Great Britain: Tries Devereux 2, Schofield, Offiah, Newlove; Goals Davies 4; Drop goal Schofield. New Zealand: Tries Watson, Ropati; Goals Botica 2.
GREAT BRITAIN: Davies (Warrington); Devereux (Widnes), Newlove (Bradford Northern), Connolly, Offiah (both Wigan); Schofield (Leeds, capt), Edwards (Wigan); Harrison (Halifax), Jackson (Hull), Fairbank (Bradford Northern), Nickle, Joynt (both St Helens), Clarke (Wigan). Substitutes: Jackson (Halifax) for Fairbank, 28; Powell (Sheffield) for Harrison, 56; Eyres (Leeds) for Nickle, 58; Tait (Leeds) for Connolly, 73.
NEW ZEALAND: Watson (Bradford Northern); Hoppe (Hanburrow), Ropati (Auckland), Iro (Leeds), Botica (Wigan); Kemp (Castleford), Freeman (Penrith, capt); Solomona (Oldham), Mann (Auckland), Stuart (Canterbury), Kearney (Western Suburbs), Pongia (Canberra), Mackie (Northland). Substitutes: Mercer (Leeds) for Mackie, 45; Williams (Canterbury) for Hoppe, 48; Lomax (Canberra) for Solomona, 58; Taewa (Canterbury) for Mann, 73.
Referee: G McCallum (Australia).
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