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The Sydney Morning Herald

PRESIDENT'S CLEAN-UP HALTED BY THE MUD

Author: JOHN MACDONALD
Date: 05/07/1988
Words: 914
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 70
Until shortly after half-time, the most professional thing Great Britain did at Seiffert Oval yesterday was to put on clean guernseys during the break

This enabled the 6,037 hardy spectators to at least identify the guilty parties.

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 show.

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 on them."

It seemed a formality when Fenech's men were in from their first set of six tackles.

Trewhella split the tourists right open and winger Steve O'Brien finished them off.

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 line.

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 varied skills.

"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 "heroic".

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.

 
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