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The Sydney Morning Herald


Date: 28/06/1988
Words: 1165
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 76
BRISBANE: Australian captain and Man-of-the-Match Wally Lewis launched a stinging attack on Great Britain's dangerously high tackling after Australia clinched the Ashes with a 34-14 victory in the second Test at Lang Park last night.

"They would do better in Test matches if they tried to tackle around the legs and not knock our heads off," an irate Lewis said in an otherwise happy Australian dressingroom.

"We had to take it on the nose all night and still come up with a win without retaliating," he said.

A bitter war of words erupted over Lewis's claims which Malcolm Reilly, the Great Britain coach, labelled as 'whingeing".

"There was high tackling on both sides ... if that's what the Australians are saying it sounds like whingeing.

"Our blokes copped plenty too. And the Australians, I can tell you, were guilty of a lot of provocation.

"It was something the referee (Frenchman Francis Desplas) didn't worry about too much. But we certainly felt like getting back at them."

Lewis himself was a victim of a blatant late and high tackle when he set up centre Peter Jackson for a try in the 21st minute.

English fullback Paul Loughlin laid Lewis out, but the referee and touch judges did not react.

English halfback Andy Gregory, otherwise one of the best English players in a beaten team, seemed to have penchant for going high. And forwards and backs followed him alike.

Five minutes from the finish Gregory was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes- effectively for the remainder of the game - after he again tackled high on winger Andrew Ettingshausen.

Australian Rugby League chairman Ken Arthurson said he too was worried about "a lot of high tackling in the game".

He agreed one of the problems of having a neutral referee who could not speak English was the fact that scrums deteriorated and players could not communicate.

"But to be fair, he did not show any bias," Arthurson said.

The often brutal Test will be remembered for some superbly conceived and taken tries and a committed Great Britain who made it clear they were prepared to shed blood to win.

From the opening whistle they made it clear the blood was Australia's.

Lewis led the way in a performance that featured all his toughness, skill and cool reading of the play.

Prop Sam Backo wasn't far behind him, warming up after a quiet opening with some damaging runs that took a large toll of the British defence.

Lock Wayne Pearce, half Peter Sterling and fullback Garry Jack were other great Australian players.

England mixed the occasionally skilful with the harmful, and half Andy Gregory had the mixture perfect.

Prop Kevin Ward, second-rower Andy Platt until injured, and skipper Ellery Hanley were others to try hard.

Australia led 18-4 at halftime as the Britons showed they were prepared to give blood in the Test - Australian blood.

Head-high tackles, late tackles and swinging arms were rife.

Loughlin and centre Phil Ford, in particular, were lucky to stay on the field.

While the visitors were concentrating on getting physical, the Australians were concentrating on playing football.

The result was three first-class tries and the Test series was as good as won.

They took a good grip on the Test at the 20th minute with a superb try.

Lewis's attempted grubber kick rebounded off an English leg but the quick-thinking Lewis picked up the ball and ran into the gap.

It was a simple matter to position centre Peter Jackson to score near the posts.

Lewis was flattened by Loughlin after he passed the ball and lay motionless for nearly a minute but neither touch judge made a report.

O'Connor's successful conversion was a formality.

Australian left the best until near halftime in one of the great Test tries.

The ball was spun along the line 40m from the Great Britain goal until it reached Lewis.

Giant prop Sam Backo made a half-break before finding Lewis doubling around.

The five-eighth dummied and ran deep into the quarter before propping and firing a selective pass to Jack, who in turn got a great pass to Ettingshausen, who beat his opposite to cap a great movement in the corner.

O'Connor's attempt hit the upright.

When they weren't attacking heads, Great Britain showed they could play football and tried to introduce set moves directed towards Offiah's wing.

Lewis later quelled speculation about his future as Australian captain by saying: "Playing for Australia is the ultimate.

"My last time playing for Australia is when the selectors decide I'm not good enough anymore.

"We could have been a little bit better," said Lewis, ever the perfectionist, pointing to the falling down of discipline and dropped ball at times.

Speaking of his determination to make the series a clean sweep, Lewis pointed to the 24-15 close call on the 1986 Kangaroo tour.

"I've got them (memories of the tour). I'm sure Don (Furner, the Australian coach) has, too. We expect a little bit more desperation from England."

Furner agreed with Reilly's assessment that Australia's forwards laid the groundwork for the victory.

"We did everything to win and it would have taken a great side to beat us tonight," Furner said.

"The boys didn't make any mistake and their defence was outstanding."

The Lang Park parochialism came to the fore before a ball was kicked off.

Nobody knows who was responsible for it ... but the message was clear.

On the electronic scoreboard was the message: Bullfrog - shame our favourite No 7 isn't here.

Bullfrog is a nickname given to Canterbury-Bankstown chief executive and NSW and Australian team manager Peter Moore. The No 7 was an obvious reference to Queensland's popular player and halfback, blond haired Allan Langer.

Despite the "dig", Australia's long serving halfback Peter Sterling, had a marvellous game behind a winning Australian forward pack.

AUSTRALIA 34 (M O'Connor P Jackson A Ettingshausen S Backo W Pearce W Lewis tries; M O'Connor five goals) bt GREAT BRITAIN 14 (P Ford M Offiah tries; P Loughlin three goals). Referee: F Desplas. Crowd: 27,130.

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