Supporting cast steal limelight

Fiji President's XIII 16 Great Britain 42
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The Independent Online
Two of the more debatable choices for the Lions' tour took leading roles as Great Britain maintained their perfect record in Oceania with a convincing win over a Fijian second-string side.

The St Helens stand-off and loose forward, Karle Hammond, scraped on to the plane as a late replacement for the injured Shaun Edwards, winning recognition for his role in his club's surge to the first Super League title. Hammond is regarded more as a creator than as a prolific scorer of tries, but his hat-trick yesterday put him out on his own as the leading try-scorer on the tour.

Hammond admits that he had virtually given up hope of winning a tour place, but he now has his eyes on winning a place in the 17-man Test squad. "I'd give my right arm to play a Test for my country," he said. "It's a bit of a shock to be top try-scorer, but it's just a matter of backing up the players who make the breaks."

If Hammond was a logical choice to make the tour - albeit as a replacement - there was always a risk attached to bringing Neil Harmon, who had been out of contract with Leeds and had not played a match since the middle of June.

And things did not start well for him on tour: he was helped off with concussion within two minutes of his first appearance at Mt Hagen last week. So yesterday was his first opportunity to accumulate some much- needed match practice. "I've been training all through the summer, but match fitness is something else altogether," Harmon said. "I asked [coach] Phil Larder to leave me on for as long as he could and I got 70-odd minutes. My goal now is to get into the Test team in New Zealand."

Terry O'Connor, who performed equally well alongside Harmon in the front row, could be the favourite for a place on the bench in the Test against Fiji on Saturday, when Great Britain can expect a far sterner challenge than they faced from the President's XIII.

The Lions were 12-0 up before the overawed Fijians had stepped into their opponents' half, with Joey Hayes scoring the first from Hammond's kick and then Hammond himself touching down. Tulsen Tollett, Keith Senior and Mick Cassidy followed with tries before half-time.

The tourists lost a little of their concentration and defensive bite after the break against a team that looked far more comfortable running at the opposition. The Fijians produced three tries in the second spell.

But the completion of Hammond's hat-trick, plus a further try from Jason Critchley, kept Great Britain well out in front, despite losing Tollett to the sin-bin for dissent in what he described afterwards as a case of mistaken identity.

FIJI PRESIDENT'S XIII: Navale; Baravilala, Dau, Kativerata, Vatubua; Takaladau, Maraivalu; Lomaloma, Noilea, Bainivalu, Soqe, Raiwaqavuka, Tupou. Substitutes used: Toduadua, Koroi, Botenakadavu, Suka.

GREAT BRITAIN: Prescott (St Helens); Hayes (St Helens), Mather (Western Reds), Senior (Sheffield), Critchley (Keighley); Hammond (St Helens), Tollett (London); Harmon (Leeds), Lowes (Bradford), O'Connor (Wigan), Bradbury (Oldham), Cassidy (Wigan), Joynt (St Helens). Substitutes used: Sullivan (St Helens), Molloy (Featherstone), Morley (Leeds), Dwyer (Bradford).

Referee: T Nunu (Fiji).

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