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Sun-Herald

'PATCHED UP' POM HEROES

Author: By ALAN CLARKSON at Sydney Football Stadium
Date: 09/07/1988
Words: 1033
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 63
GREAT BRITAIN ended their exile as a major Rugby League force yesterday with a great 26-12 win over Australia in the third Test.

Australia, tipped by many to win the match by 20 to 25 points, were completely outplayed by a much better team.

The victory, earned through some superb play from the vigorous but disciplined Great Britain pack, sent shockwaves through the Australian League

Here was a Great Britain team, stripped of ten seasoned Test players through injury and other reasons, and with two changes as late as Friday afternoon, bringing the might of Australian Rugby League to their knees.

"That ranks with any great achievement in the game, even the Rorke's Drift Test," the English team's business manager, David Howes said.

It was an emotional time for the English team. They had been on the receiving end of some well-deserved criticism for their head-hunting in the second Test in Brisbane.

A small army of British team supporters, gaudy caps perched on their heads, colourful in English club colours and waving flags, gave the crowd an inkling of what support was all about.

They cheered everything and late in the match, when the Great Britain team had weathered the Australian fightback and had come again with two spectacular tries, the crowd sent up the chant "Easy ... Easy ... Easy".

When it was all over the Great Britain players went over to their supporters to thank them and to receive the accolades they richly deserved.

This Great Britain team brought respectability back to the English League in the first Test, lost it in the second, but regained the surrendered ground yesterday.

It was the Great Britain team's first Test win against Australia in 16 matches.

After losing 15 in succession, yesterday's match was regarded by most as being a formality.

On Friday, two of the selected players dropped out of the team because of the horror run with injuries. At 3.30pm coach Mal Reilly got the new team together for the one training run before the Test.

Reilly liked what he saw. Everything clicked, and yesterday there was eagerness and confidence from the players in the hours leading up to the Test

The dressing rooms before the match told entirely different stories. In the Great Britain room, the players paced around only stopping when Reilly spoke to them.

The air was electric.

The Australian room was calm as the players went about the task of getting ready for the 80 minutes which would decide whether Australia's domination would continue.

It did not take long for everyone to realise the forecasts had been well off the mark. This Great Britain team did not intend to lie down and play doggo.

"Our lads started to believe in themselves and they started to build on their form," Reilly said after the match.

"They have worked really hard and the defence has improved and this was a big factor in our win.

"I would like to stay on as the Great Britain coach because I feel there is plenty of talent there.

"It's a tough job. I've taken enough crap over the last couple of weeks to do me a lifetime."

Australian coach Don Furner would not offer any excuse for his team's defeat.

"We were completely outplayed," Furner said.

That accurately summed up the match.

"Our tackling was not as devastating as it was in the first two Tests,"Furner continued.

"We were bustled and we did not have ball control. The Great Britain players made us pay for our mistakes.

"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves with our handling blunders.

"The scoreboard really gave an accurate picture of the difference between the teams. If you don't tackle you end up getting your face rubbed in the dirt.

"They certainly showed what they can do with the ball."

There was no similarity between yesterday's team and the one which went through the motions in the second Test.

In the second Test they were over-aggressive and cost themselves any chance of winning. Yesterday they were considerably more threatening in football skills and showed up some massive flaws in the Australian team.

Australia suffered a major setback when halfback Peter Sterling was forced off shortly before halftime with a "sprung" shoulder after being driven into the turf in a tough tackle by second rower Roy Powell.

By halftime Great Britain led 10-0 following spectacular tries by Martin Offiah and Phil Ford but in reality it could have been 20-0.

So dominant were the Great Britain players with their calm team work, their great running in attack and their backing up which seemed so automatic.

The shabby Australian defence contributed to the Englishmen's domination when they failed to put the ball runner to the ground.

It takes a special team to come back the way Great Britain did to wrap up the match and end their years in the Rugby League wilderness.

If this team makes the final of the World series and they can call on those players who could not make the tour or who were injured, Australia could be on the receiving end of a hiding.

Chunky Andy Gregory was rightly voted the man-of-the-match.

The Australian selectors may have to look a little further than this present team for Australia to have a chance in the World Series final against either Great Britain or New Zealand.

GREAT BRITAIN 26 (H Gill 2, M Offiah, P Ford, M Gregory tries; P Loughlin 3 goals) b AUSTRALIA 12 (W Lewis, S Backo tries; M O'Connor 2 goals) CROWD: 15,944. REFEREE: F Desplas.

 
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