Unforced errors litter Lions' Maori defeat

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The Independent Online
Rugby Leaguereports from Whangarei

New Zealand Maoris 40 Great Britain 28

Great Britain still cannot win a match in New Zealand, setting up an unwanted record here last night by becoming the first Lions tourists to lose to a Maori side. It was a defeat which was self-inflicted as well as historic, with glaring errors near their own line responsible for four of the seven tries Great Britain conceded.

Enthusiastic opposition coached by the former Carlisle trainer Cameron Bell and led by a player of the pedigree of Tawera Nikau did not need any repeated invitations. They inflicted a third defeat of the tour so far to put a further cloud over Britain's preparations for the second Test on Friday.

Britain began brightly enough, Bernard Dwyer capitalising on a good break from Karle Hammond to score the first try of the match.

It was the first match Dwyer had started on the tour, but it soon went downhill. It was his fumble when trying to run the ball out that gave Jamie Stevens a try that put the Maoris into a lead they were never to lose.

Midway through the half, Paul Rawhihi got a beautiful pass away to Nikau for the second and a miserable 10 minutes was rounded off when Steve Prescott failed to take a high kick and Doc Murray scored the first of his two tries.

The tourists fought back before half-time with a solo try from Tony Smith and a remarkable display of strength from David Bradbury, who carried three men on his back for the last 10 yards to the try line.

However, Britain's flair for self-destruction soon reasserted itself, with Nathan McAvoy - drafted in from the Academy squad to avoid risking Barrie-Jon Mather, who might well be required as a replacement for Daryl Powell in Friday's game - losing the ball in the tackle and the veteran Neville Ramsey cashing in.

Marlon Gardiner's try in the corner, hotly disputed by defenders who felt they had put him into touch, opened up a 12-point gap that, despite Britain twice chipping away at it, proved the eventual difference between the sides.

Hammond's cleverly angled kick sent Prescott in, but Jon Roper's missed tackle soon allowed Jason Walker to reply.

James Lowes' kick and chase momentarily revived faint hopes, but Murray's second, also from a kick through, just as quickly snuffed them out.

The Great Britain coach, Phil Larder, tried to separate another disappointing midweek result from the Test side's prospects in Palmerston North, but his face betrayed the depth of his disappointment.

"We just committed suicide again," he said. "We made far too many errors near our own line and they punished us for them."

Quite apart from the string of errors that underlined the lack of any real depth of international quality in this squad, Larder also finished with further injury worries.

NEW ZEALAND MAORIS: Murray; Walker, Henry, Taewa, Gardiner; Stevens, Howell; Hill, Barlow, Rawhihi, Sturm, Pearce, Nikau. Substitutes used: Ramsey, Farrar, Whakarau, Milner.

GREAT BRITAIN: Prescott; McAvoy, Senior, Tollett, Roper; Hammond, Smith; Molloy, Lowes, McDermott, Morley, Cassidy, Dwyer. Substitutes used: Bradbury, Phillips, Harmon. Not used: Mather.

Referee: G Allcock (Auckland).

n In a surprise move, Great Britain announced they were flying home half their tour squad. Only the players likely to be involved in the two remaining Tests travelled to Palmerston North yesterday, with the rest due to fly back to Britain from Auckland.

If the Test squad needs any reinforcements they will have to be drawn from the Academy side, which is also touring New Zealand.

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