Until shortly after half-time, the most professional thing Great
Britain did at Seiffert Oval yesterday was to put on clean guernseys during the
This enabled the 6,037 hardy spectators to at least identify the guilty
The clean guernseys worked wonders, for Great Britain were transformed
from the sadly uncoordinated group of the first half.
They produced one of their best efforts of the 1988 tour despite losing
24-16 to the President's XIII.
A disaster to equal the 35-0 loss to Manly before the first Test seemed
certain when Great Britain trailed 14-2 after 22 minutes.
Instead the increasingly wet and muddy ground made the tourists feel like
they were in the north of England and proved a great leveller.
Everyone was happy.
Great Britain coach Malcolm Reilly was happy because his players had shown
character and looked a possibility of winning when they pulled up to 18-16.
He now has hopes of improvement for the third Test at the Sydney Football
Stadium next Saturday.
Australian coach Don Furner was happy because his invitation players had
all performed well on only three light training sessions, and had scored five
tries despite the muddy ground.
Most spectators must have been happy because the players had put on a good
It was only a pity such crowd-pleasers as Greg Alexander and Phil Blake
didn't have the opportunities to fully express their talents.
Glen Lazarus, Mario Fenech, David Trewhella - in fact all the invitation
pack - went well on a forwards' day.
Skipper Fenech - the man they call Test match - enjoyed his first real
taste of international football.
"I obviously enjoyed it but it was completely different," Fenech said. "It
was not as intense as in first grade and the yardage gained against the Poms
was a lot easier.
"Luckily for them it was muddy. I thought we were going to do a real job
It seemed a formality when Fenech's men were in from their first set of
Trewhella split the tourists right open and winger Steve O'Brien finished
Another break by Trewhella for a Lazarus try and a Lazarus pass for an
Alexander try made another embarrassment for the tourists seem certain.
The President's XIII seemed the ones on tour, having all the combination
and power. Great Britain had no idea in defence and never moved to the advantage
Only an Andy Gregory bomb for a Mike Gregory try made the score almost as
respectable as the Great Britain uniforms as they came out for the second half.
Then came the resurgence with more committed tackling and the wet weather
did the rest.
Two tries to fullback Phil Ford after lengthy passing movements gave a
brief glimmer of the impossible, but Alexander wrapped it up when he darted from
a scrum and put centre Graeme Bradley over near time.
It was notable that Great Britain's attack became more fluent when Reilly
replaced half Gregory midway through the match.
As North Sydney five-eighth Glen Florimo said, Gregory could become a
legend for toughness but seemed intent on standing in tackles and daring the
defence when he could have been slipping passes.
"I gave him my best shot and he didn't budge," Florimo said of one tackle.
"He mightn't have the skill of some Sydney halfbacks but he's very tough."
Second-rower Gavin Miller, finally given his shot at the big time, played
his part but the weather and the unfamiliarity of his team-mates dampened his
"We trained expecting the conditions to be good," he said. "The weather
was definitely a leveller. You can't take out insurance against bad weather."
Asked about his own game, Miller's answer was a modest: "I plugged away.
My contribution was healthy."
Any of the invitation forwards could have gained points in best and
fairest awards, with probably Trewhella, Fenech, Lazarus or half Alexander vying
for the major honours.
Prop Kevin Ward made a major contribution for the tourists in an emphatic
return to his best and second-rower Gregory's effort was in Reilly's estimation
It was a day for ducks rather than backs but centre Paul Loughlin should
retain that position for the Test.
The tourists major worry is hooker Kevin Beardmore, who came off after 10
minutes with a bruised hip.
PRESIDENTS XIII 24 (S O'Brien G Lazarus G Alexander M Meninga G Bradley
tries; M Meninga 2 goals) bt GREAT BRITAIN 16 (P Ford 2 M Gregory tries; P
Loughlin 2 goals). Crowd: 6,037. Referee: Eddie Ward.