Rugby League: Hancock has the last laugh in farce

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA assured themselves of at least a share of the series against New Zealand with a 16-8 victory in a second Test which ended in high farce yesterday, writes Dave Hadfield.

Despite swamping the Kiwis for much of the game at a rain-sodden Palmerston North, Australia only clinched their win with an injury time try by Michael Hancock.

That was, when a Test almost exciting as last Sunday's draw in Auckland, degenerated into a fiasco. All the available balls disappeared into the crowd and the English referee, Russell Smith, had to wait five minutes before restarting for the final moments.

Australia had dominated the first half, with Bradley Clyde and Willie Carne scoring tries, but the Kiwis threatened a comeback when Gary Freeman finished off a break by Jarrod McCracken and Tony Kemp just before the hour.

New Zealand had their chances in the last few minutes, before a run by Glen Lazarus set up Hancock's try. The Kiwis must now win in Brisbane next Wednesday to square the series. The Wakefield Trinity chairman, Rodney Walker, has returned from a period in the wilderness by being re-elected to the League's board of directors and being named as the League's new chairman.

Walker, aged 50 and voted off the board last year, is also the new president of the League. Chris Caisley of Bradford Northern was elected to the board in place of Featherstone's Eric Gardner.

The most significant by-law change at the League's annual meeting was that players' contracts will now be lodged with the League. That is an essential first step towards one of the pet schemes of the game's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, for a salary cap on players' earnings.

NEW ZEALAND: Edwards (Ropati, 45); Hoppe (Donnelly, 77), McCracken, Watson, Halligan; Kemp, Freeman (capt); Solomona, Mann, Todd, Mercer, Hill (Lomax, 55), Nikau (Tuuta, 71).

AUSTRALIA: Shearer (Ettingshausen, 65); Hancock, Meninga (capt), Fittler, Carne; Daley, Langer; Lazarus, S Walters, Harragon, Sironen (Mackay, 40), Lindner, Clyde.