Rugby League: Edwards to the rescue as Britain are made to sweat: Entat sparks French display of handling skills

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The Independent Online
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ONLY a brilliant instinctive try from Shaun Edwards got Great Britain off their sick bed and into a winning position against a vastly improved French side here yesterday.

Edwards, a doubtful starter after being ill the previous night, earned his team a victory they hardly deserved with a devastating attack from the base of a scrum just inside the French half.

A rapid exchange of passes with Garry Schofield followed by a dummy to the British captain opened a gap in a stubborn French defence and Edwards went 45 yards to establish a crucial 10-4 lead.

Up to that point, 17 minutes into the second half, France, who had conceded 120 points in their last two matches against Britain, had threatened one of the biggest reversals of form in Test history.

In their scrum-half and captain, Patrick Entat, and their second row, Danny Divet and Didier Cabestany, they had the best players on the field and they often embarrassed Britain with their handling skills. After going behind to a Lee Crooks penalty, they showed those skills at their best when Divet made the initial breakthrough, Entat kept a breathtaking move flowing and Bernard Llong sent in Franck Martial.

Edwards was also instrumental in the try that gave Britain a psychologically important lead immediately before half-time. His short pass gave John Bentley some space and a ball switched back inside by Martin Offiah allowed Paul Newlove to score.

France missed two penalties, either of which would have brought them level, in the second half, but the turning point came when Pascal Bomati was pulled back for an offside decision destined to be debated in the bars of Carcassonne all night from one of Entat's many clever kicks.

Other French sides would have had the fight knocked out of them by Edward's try and by an offside penalty kicked by Andrew Farrell as time ran out. But this transformed line-up still put together a potential try-scoring move which was only denied by the ruling that Divet had passed forward to Jean-Marc Garcia.

It was one of a number by the Wigan referee, John Connolly, that ensured a hostile reception at the end. After an even more unlucky

13-12 defeat by Wales earlier this month, France can be excused for believing the world is against them.

'At least we have proved we are heading in the right direction,' Divet said. From a British point of view, this looked like a diversion in the wrong direction - especially with Australia waiting in October.

'We should give France a great deal of credit,' Schofield said. 'But this was not a good British performance.'

FRANCE: Frison (Villefranche); Garcia, Martial (both St Esteve), Fraisse (Sheffield), Sirvent (St Gaudens); Fages (Pia), Entat (Avignon, capt); Teixido (Limoux), Toreilles (Pia), Llong (Catalan), Divet (Hull), Cabestany (Catalan), Grandjean (Lezignan). Substitutes: Attia (Carpentras) for Grandjean, 36; Bomati (Catalan) for Sirvent, 40; Anast (St Gaudens) for Llong, 57; Couttet (Carcassonne) for Martial, 72.

GREAT BRITAIN: Steadman (Castleford); Bentley (Halifax), Connolly (Wigan), Newlove (Bradford), Offiah (Wigan); Schofield (Leeds, capt), Edwards (Wigan); Crooks (Castleford), Jackson (Sheffield), Molloy (Featherstone), Farrell (Wigan), Fairbank (Bradford), Joynt (St Helens). Substitutes: Mather (Wigan) for Fairbank, 51; Powell (Sheffield) for Newlove, 57; Moriarty (Widnes) for Crooks, 64; Ellis (Castleford) for Bentley, 72.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).