Rugby League: Larder has Test limits underlined

New Zealand XIII 30 Great Britain 22
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The Independent Online
Great Britain will go into the first Test against the Kiwis in Auckland on Friday without the confidence boost of a win so far in New Zealand. Defeat by a purposeful side drawn from the strata below Test level makes it one draw and one loss since arriving here for the most important stage of the tour.

Few if any of the side that lost here last night will be involved in the Test, so the direct relevance of the result is limited, but it is another reminder that the Great Britain coach, Phil Larder, has little room for manoeuvre in his team selection.

Lacking in Test potential as they were, the British second string could still have won this match, if they had taken their chances in the first half at Fraser Park, to which the match was switched this week without anybody apparently being told.

Chris Joynt and Steve Prescott both put down passes with the line open and those omissions cost the tourists dear in the final reckoning.

They had fallen behind early in the match when Tony Tatupu got his pass away to the former Featherstone, Sheffield and Oldham winger, Iva Ropati, but took the lead when Barrie-Jon Mather's clever inside ball released Joey Hayes.

Tatupu figured again in the New Zealanders' second try from Hitro Okesene and Britain had spurned the first of their inviting opportunities before Whetu Taewa put the locals further ahead.

Mather scored himself, on the end of a good back line move and a final pass from Karle Hammond, and should have gone over again when he chose instead to pass to Prescott.

The Swann cousins, Logan and Anthony, combined to extend the Kiwi lead after the break, although Tony Smith brought the tourists back to within two points.

Smith, however, conceded a penalty by holding down Okesene to give David Murray two points and the final stages of the match belonged to Shane Endacott, the son of the Kiwi coach, Frank. Endacott's two late tries were separated by one from Hammond, whose performance, despite having to move to centre for part of the game, was one of the British bright spots. That gave a brief glimpse of a snatched victory, but that prospect proved to be an illusion.

Endacott Snr could have picked any one of the local side's back three to complete his squad for Friday's Test. After due consideration he took the looseforward Logan Swann with him on the plane back to Auckland to prepare for that encounter.

For his opposite number, Larder, the choices are less alluring. Joynt came through safely in his first match after recovering from a recurrence of his knee injury, but could still be a shade shy of Test match condition, while Terry O'Connor and Hammond had games that could get them as far as the bench in Auckland.

"That's where the Great Britain Test team is already sitting," said Endacott - and he will be correct on that score.

NEW ZEALAND XIII: Murray; Ropati, A Swann, Taewa, Stewart; Endacott, Whittaker; Malam, Johnston, Okesene, Tutupu, Henare, L Swann. Substitutes: Noovao, Faumiuna, Seu Seu, Avery.

GREAT BRITAIN: Prescott; Hayes, Mather, Senior, Critchley; Tollett, Smith; Harmon, Lowes, O'Connor, Bradbury, Joynt, Hammond. Substitutes: Roper, Phillips, Dwyer, Cassidy.

Referee: D Hale (Auckland).

n Central Districts Colts added to a bad day for touring British sides when they beat Great Britain Academy 38-30. The coach, John Kear, later complained that the New Zealanders had fielded over-age players. "I don't mind losing, but it has got to be a level playing field," he said. "They have admitted to us that not all their players were under 19 on the specified date and that's not on."

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