To be with the celebrating Great Britain team on Saturday night was to
be carried along on a wave of emotion that comes only when a dam bursts after
years of drought.
After a decade of wild goose chases, beating Australia under any
circumstances would be like finding the Holy Grail in your attic.
To have done so in such style, with a squad that has encountered so many
tribulations, was like having it diamond encrusted.
A lot of us, players, officials, pressmen and supporters, found it almost
too much to bear.
Some fairly tough men had shed tears after the game.
By the time of the gala dinner at the Regent Hotel the tears were dried
but the pride that had put them there was still visible.
Every player had experienced an afternoon to be proud of.
There was Phil Ford, derided after the second Test but a masterly
performer at fullback on Saturday.
And Henderson Gill, never even hinting at his best form until he cut loose
in the third Test.
Martin Offiah on the other wing not only scored the first try but made
crucial tackles ... yes, tackles, a word that wasn't even meant to be in his
Paul Loughlin, who capped a fine all-round performance by striding through
like a Pommy Mal Meninga to set up Gill's second try.
Then there was David Stephenson, still far from full fitness because of
the shoulder that kept him out of the second Test.
He had phoned his father, his sternest critic, before the match.
"This will be your last match in Australia," he was told. "Make sure it's
a good one."
A few minutes into the game, Stephenson jolted his bad shoulder into his
mate from Leeds, Peter Jackson, and knew he was going to keep his dad happy.
David Hulme is a halfback at home. He has been a five-eighth for most of
the tour and was probably the smallest lock outside of schoolboy football for
much of Saturday's Test.
But his efforts freed Hanley to do the best marking job on Wally Lewis
that probably anyone has achieved.
Andy Gregory received the worst of the rubbish that was heaped on Great
Britain after the Lang Park debacle.
He re-emerged as what he is - a master halfback in the great English
His namesake, Mike, in the second row, was just as involved.
To tackle and run like he did for 72 minutes and then sprint 70m to score
-ignoring Offiah alongside him - takes leather lungs and a brass neck.
There was his partner Roy Powell, devastated on Tuesday when he lost the
ball near his own line, and with it Britain's hopes of beating the President's
He is a man of character and came back with a beauty.
Kevin Ward, asked about his chances of playing the day before the game,
could only grunt: "I'll have to. There's no-one else."
It was hardly a ringing declaration of confidence. But despite constant
pain from his ankle he was a mighty figure.
And what about Paul Hulme, who had never even played hooker at school? How
could he be expected to cope in a Test match? But he did.
It's all too much like bad fiction, or an excerpt from one of Hugh
Waddell's prophetic dreams.
Waddell dreamt before he left England that he would play in one Test in
Australia and that Great Britain would win it.
When he couldn't crack the Test side it looked as if his muse had
misinformed him. But we all believe in his psychic powers now.
His display, all guts and commitment, was a dream in itself.
The final tag has not yet been affixed to this heroic show.
But in the beleaguered Great Britain camp over the past few weeks they had
begun to call themselves The Survivors.
The Survivors of the Sydney Football Stadium. It doesn't do them full
justice - but it's a start.
GREAT BRITAIN 26 (Henderson Gill 2, Phil Ford, Martin Offiah, Mike Gregory
tries; Paul Loughlin 3 goals) bt AUSTRALIA 12 (Wally Lewis, Sam Backo tries;
Michael O'Connor 2 goals). Crowd: 15,944. Referee: Francis Desplas (France). Man
of the match: Andy Gregory (Brit).
* New Zealand outclassed Papua New Guinea in their World Cup Test, scoring
12 tries in a 66-14 victory in Auckland yesterday.
The win leaves New Zealand on nine points, one behind Great Britain and
Australia but with one game to play - against Great Britain next week.