Great Britain’s tour Down Under ended with a fourth and most embarrassing defeat, as they lost 28-10 to Papua New Guinea.
After back-to-back defeats to New Zealand had followed the opening tour loss to Tonga, the Lions were desperate to end an ill-fated tour on a winning note, and they led 10-0 in the first half.
Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson scored early tries, though they lost skipper James Graham to a head injury.
But the Kumuls, featuring a handful of top level players but mainly made up of players playing in the lower grades in Australia and England, fought back to secure a much-deserved victory that will no doubt go down in history in their rugby league mad country.
Edwin Ipape’s converted try brought them back to 10-6 at half time, and they cut loose in the second half to have the game wrapped up shortly after the hour mark.
Doncaster half-back Watson Boas and Melbourne centre Justin Olam touched down off kicks, before Alex Johnston and Nixon Putt also scored tries as the Lions were left shellshocked.
Bennett’s position now untenable
There is no doubting Wayne Bennett’s achievements as a coach in Australia, arguably the greatest ever, but his arrogance and ignorance towards the British game has been woefully exposed on this tour. His squad selections were baffling at best, his attitude in interviews and the way the team has been coached has almost single-handedly brought down what was supposed to be the glorious return of Great Britain. With a World Cup two years away, keeping Bennett would surely have a detrimental effect on ticket sales, and organisers, like the majority of fans, will probably be hoping that he is given the chop.
The end of GB?
It’s been 12 years since the last Great Britain test and maybe this tour has proved that it should have been left in the past. There will never be good enough players that hail from Scotland and Ireland until those countries have a genuine development path that includes semi-professional teams, while even the commendable efforts of Wales are unlikely to provide a top-level group of players that qualify. A lot has been said about Regan Grace and while he wouldn’t have been a token pick, he wouldn’t be a starting winger for GB if everyone was fit.
The problems are beyond Bennett
Clearly there are significant issues with the governance of the game. We stumble from crisis to crisis, year after year, trying to convince the world to buy in to our supposedly great game, that we spend all of our time complaining about. George Clarke points the finger in his analysis on Fox Sports “He didn’t cut funding to development officers in Scotland and Wales, – while the CEO of the governing body, Nigel Wood, retained a salary of £314,000 – meaning that the chronic underinvestment in the other three nations meant the team was exclusively English.”
Line-ups and scorers
Papua New Guinea: Johnston, Gebbie, Mead, Olam, Amean, Laybutt, Boas, W Albert, Puara, Page, Putt, Russell, Martin. Subs: Ipape, Lo, Albert, Moses
Great Britain: Lomax, McGillvary, Hughes, Connor, Austin, Widdop, Hastings, Hill, Hodgson, Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham. Subs: Jones, Thompson, Clark, Walmsley.