AUSTRALIA produced a spectacular second-half recovery to continue
their domination over Great Britain, with a 17-6 win in the Centenary Test at
the Sydney Football Stadium yesterday.
It was not one of Australia's better efforts against a vastly improved
Great Britain side.
Australia went in to this 100th Test with starts given of up to 15 1/2
By half-time, when Great Britain led 6-0, it appeared they were on their
way to one of the great upsets in recent rugby league history.
Australia showed tremendous character and better football skill in the
second-half, to score three tries to finish comfortable but not convincing
For centre, Peter Jackson, and prop, Sam Backo, their first Test match
will never be forgotten.
It was Backo who raced on to a Peter Sterling pass to score Australia's
first try after six minutes of the second-half.
Then Jackson scored two tries in 11 minutes to give Australia victory.
Great Britain had the look of the odds-on favourite in the first-half.
Only the most loyal Englishman could have tipped a Great Britain victory
after losses to Northern Division last Sunday and to Manly on Tuesday night.
But coach, Malcolm Reilly had kept the majority of his Test players out of
the firing line and unleashed them on the Australian team yesterday.
In a massive build-up to the game, there were team meetings and a video
before the players left for the ground.
"We all expressed our feelings and the players had a meeting in the bus
before going into the dressing-room," Reilly said.
"We knew we had to take the game to the Australian side and we could not
let them settle down.
"We had to unsettle them."
The plan worked superbly.
Bruising defence and some mishandling by the Australian team, coupled with
two scrum losses against the feed, gave Great Britain the lion's share of
possession in the first-half.
Big Kevin Ward, the eventual man-of-the-match, roared into the attack,
bouncing the would-be defenders off him.
He was difficult to contain and his ability to unload the pass kept the
Great Britain attack alive and the Australian defence working overtime.
So strong was the Great Britain defence, that on one occasion the
Australian attack lost 20 metres.
The red, white and blue banners waved furiously when Ward made one huge
indent into the Australian defence.
From the run, Great Britain's captain, Ellery Hanley, ran on to a pass,
skirted away from Sterling, who crashed on to the point of his shoulder and then
beat the covering tackle by Bob Lindner.
The Australian team looked better early in the second half, there was more
purpose to their play, and Backo brought a cheer from the stunned crowd when he
charged on to a ball and made good ground.
Perhaps the cheer was because he held on to the ball, as he had been
guilty of spilling it several times in the first-half.
Gaining in confidence, the Australian attack with Sterling prominent
became more threatening.
Splendid lead-up work put Jackson in for the first of his two tries from a
Sterling pass and 11 minutes later, Bob Lindner, Lewis, and then Lindner again
ripped through the defence and Jackson was in for his second try.
Sterling was Australia's best player.
Great Britain showed they are very competitive but the Australian team
showed a lot of heart to come back the way they did in the second-half.
At fullback, Garry Jack had a very strong game although the Great Britain
chasers were generally able to round him up before he could gain momentum and
pick up one of his supporting players.
In all Australia-Great Britain Tests, there is plenty of fire and
yesterday's match was no exception.
The French referee, Francis Desplas, issued a number of cautions for high
tackles and a couple of others for the use of elbows on players who were on the
Great Britain's Kevin Ward was convincingly the best forward on the field.
Great Britain's halfback, Andy Gregory, was another to have a super game.
This tough little character inspired his team-mates with his fire, moving
the ball well, searching for the gaps and destroying many of the attack with his
On the wing, Phil Ford, who looked a fairly ordinary player at fullback on
Tuesday night, excelled as a winger.
The other winger, Martin Offiah, needs plenty of matches to get the
experience that will make him a much better player.
Despite the win, the Australian selectors will certainly look very closely
at the next State of Origin match to see if there can be some improvement to
P Jackson 2 tries,S Backo 1.
M O'Connor 2 goals; W Lewis field goal.
GREAT BRITAIN 6
E Hanley try.
P Loughlin goal).