Rugby League: Second string's perfect record

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Canterbury. . . .6

Great Britain. .17

MOST of the players whose Australasian tour duties have been confined to midweek games completed a perfect record in a match for which they nearly failed to arrive yesterday.

The Great Britain party was delayed for six hours at a fog-bound Auckland airport and the kick-off here had to held up for an hour. 'If we had not got out when we did, we would not have made it,' Maurice Lindsay, the Great Britain tour manager, said. 'We could have called it off, but I think we would have regretted that.'

A shortage of seats meant that Kelvin Skerrett, earmarked as the fourth substitute despite suffering from an attack of asthma, had to be left behind. Skerrett, a reluctant flier at the best of times, was off the plane with one of his best bursts of pace of the whole tour, and Great Britain had just three backs available in case of emergency.

As it was, a hard, entertaining match passed off without mishap and the British assistant coach, John Kear, in charge for the occasion, was able to withdraw John Devereux and Deryck Fox in the second half to save them for likely appearances in Sunday's Test.

By that time, a midweek side which has shown an abundance of spirit and determination throughout the tour had moved into a winning lead on the strength of those virtues. Fox had equalised an early Canterbury penalty and then Steve McNamara, outstanding for Britain at loose forward, put in a skidding kick for the corner which ricocheted for Paul Newlove to score.

Fears that their difficult journey might have sapped the side's strength surfaced when a Canterbury side including five survivors from the one which beat Great Britain two years ago came back with a try from their powerful centre, Maea David.

But Britain refused to be grounded. They took a decisive lead in the 57th minute and fittingly it was Fox who was the architect after Dean Sampson had driven deep into the Canterbury defence. Fox's long pass found Steve Hampson on the wing and Kevin Ellis was well placed to take the inside ball and score.

Within eight minutes, smart handling from Fox, Ellis and Newlove allowed Alan Hunte to battle over and the game was out of Canterbury's reach, even before Joe Lydon's late drop goal.

A group of players who have maintained great pride in their performances celebrated as though they had won a Cup final. They have set an impressive record for future second-string touring sides to aspire to. 'After all the hassle of getting here, it's a tremendous feeling - almost like winning a Test,' said Lindsay, hoping that the first-choice team will take the obvious cue at Auckland on Sunday.

Canterbury: Atkinson; Dorreen, M David (Kerrigan, 45), Vincent (Wallace, 66), Taewa; Nixon (capt), Bergman; Rangiaho (R David, 61), Culley, Simanu (Duff, 74), Neame, Hermansson, Setu.

GREAT BRITAIN: Hampson (Wigan); Hunte (St Helens), Devereux (Widnes), Newlove (Featherstone), Myers (Wigan); Ellis (Warrington), Fox (Featherstone, capt); Sampson (Castleford), Hulme (Widnes), Crooks (Castleford), Fairbank (Bradford), M Jackson (Wakefield), McNamara (Hull). Replacements: Lydon (Wigan) for Devereux, 66; Aston (Sheffield) for Fox, 66; Hallas (Hull KR) for Crooks, 68.

Referee: D O'Sullivan (Wellington).