Noble Counts Cost of Blunt Attack
Danny McGuire looked set to touch down for the Lions with the score still at 6-2 but the ball was knocked from his grasp by Kiwi full-back Brent Webb in a two-man tackle, with the video ref waving away appeals for a penalty try.
That, however, was just one aspect of a game in which the touring side at times looked blunt in attack; failing to turn their attacking position into points on the board.
Great Britain did get into the positions to score but for most of the game could not find a way past the resilient New Zealand defence.
That changed though towards the end of the encounter with two late tries that ensured that the video referee’s decision would become a major talking point in the game’s final analysis.
The Lions were the better side in the opening quarter and took a 2-0 lead through a Sean Long penalty after the Kiwis were penalised for interference at the play the ball.
The visitors continued to press the New Zealand line but could not get over; most noticeably when the home side conceded a repeat set but Martin Gleeson’s pass out to Brian Carney went straight over the touch line.
However, it was the Kiwis who grabbed the first try when Gleeson’s grubber was pounced upon by Webb – the full-back racing ninety metres and avoiding several tackles to touch down.
Stacey Jones added the two points and that was the last scoring action of the half, with neither side looking like taking the initiative before the break.
Great Britain again got off to a reasonable start after the interval; again pressuring the Kiwis’ line, with McGuire unlucky to see what looked like a penalty try ruled out.
And, again, it was the home side who got the scoring underway when a moment of sublime passing and movement saw Motu Tony slice through the Lions defence to score beneath the posts, Jones converting.
The Kiwis sealed the win with a try just after the hour mark, when Jones’s chip kick was accidentally flicked back by Gareth Ellis to Frank Pritchard, who sent out a short ball for Isoia Soliola to touch down, Jones again adding the extras.
But Great Britain did not give up and, with just seven minutes left in the game, McGuire showed his awareness with a grubber kick into the in goal area, with Paul Wellens superbly finishing the move and Long adding the two points.
And, in the final minute, Long re-gathered his own deft kick and combined with Leon Pryce to send Ellis over, McGuire converting, to add respectability and help redress the points difference deficit.
Webb (T), Tupou, Vagana, Soliola (T), Vatuvei, Ropati, Jones (3G), Wiki, Fien, Asotasi, Kidwell, Pritchard, Mannering.
Subs Tony (T), N Cayless, J Cayless, Fa'alogo.
Wellens (T), Carney, Gleeson, Senior, Pryce, McGuire (G), Long (2G), Fielden, Newton, Morley, Ellis (T), Peacock, O'Loughlin.
Subs Roby, Carvell, Hock, Gilmour.
Match Report by Tony Williams