Rugby League: Sun shines on Devereux

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THE crucial moment in this Test came 12 minutes into the second half. New Zealand were then trailing 10-0. At Central Park last week, they had come back from 18-7 to pulverise Wigan and win gloriously, but there was to be no encore amid the equally partisan hullabaloo of Wembley.

A daring raid into New Zealand territory produced a high bomb from Jonathan Davies, which poor Morvin Edwards dropped over his own line as he looked into the sun close by the posts. Devereux was on to it like a flash to salve his pride, sorely wounded on previous visits to Wembley. Davies goaled and Great Britain were 16-0 up.

A week can be a long time in football. Sean Hoppe, who had opened the floodgates at Wigan, was never really in it against Jason Robinson yesterday. Twice the young English winger, playing his first Test, left his opposite number struggling in the first half; the first after a chip ahead by Shaun Edwards, the second after Connolly put him through.

What are we to say of the New Zealanders? Too many of their stars did not come off: Kevin Iro never looked the man who has several times thrilled Wembley in Cup final appearances. Only Gary Freeman really lived up to his reputation. He never stopped harrying Britain and was always dangerous when within striking distance. But he was not, ultimately, able to pull the coals out of the fire. In one way, at least, he appears to be a changed man; he actually patted Devereux consolingly when the Welshman had fumbled.

It was not a classic game of rugby league because New Zealand never managed to gain the upper hand. At the same time, they never quit. And not a blow was struck in anger from the kick-off to full-time, though the tackling by both sides was ferocious.

Observers of all persuasions would recognise that this was a very fine if not a truly great match. It has been customary for League supporters to genuflect to the superiority of Wembley over all other stadiums. But it was Wembley that was honoured yesterday. And the missing thousands who might have filled the place lost out on a treat.