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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: Tony Sarno
Date: 07/06/1992
Words: 736
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 37
Much is being made of the expected contrast in playing styles of the Great Britain and Australian teams-one of flair versus athleticism and low mistake rates.

But when you look closely, the Lions may not be that different from Bob Fulton's Australians-and that applies all the way from coach Malcolm Reilly down to their preparation and aspects of their game which they have stressed on tour so far.

After his side had comfortably beaten a Canberra Reserve Grade and Presidents Cup combination 24-12 at Bruce Stadium on Saturday night, Reilly was asked whether he thought his team had played equally well in both halves.

This was a loaded question because the Lions had lost the second half 6-4 to the Raiderettes, although any mug punter could see the Lions had simply became lazy after the break and coasted home.

"To be fair, I'm going to have to watch the video to do a proper analysis of it," Reilly replied seriously, sounding just like an earnest premiership coach. His answer said volumes about the Australianisation of British rugby league, and supported prop Lee Crook's assertion that this is undoubtedly the best-prepared Lions team to tour Down Under.

Reilly, Great Britain's first-ever full-time coach, spoke like your typical Australian supercoach, in a soft measured tone, complete with solemn stares.

Note his priorities when he gave an analysis of his team's performance: "I was pleased with the ball control, it was better than it has been in the past... tackling once again was reasonably good, we worked in that department ... the urgency in the play-the-ball and around the ruck area will be improved, it's got to be improved. I think our kicking game can improve considerably, and we've got to be a bit more clinical in finishing - some of the finishing left a bit to be desired."

Ball control, tackling, urgency in the play-the-ball, clinical finishing?This could have been NSW coach Phil Gould or Australian coach Bob Fulton speaking.

Never mind the British flair. As Great Britain work themselves into shape for Friday's Test against Australia, the emphasis has been on getting ball control, defence and discipline right.

"When we were in Papua New Guinea and maybe Townsville our ball control was our main worry," tour vice-captain and five-eighth Garry Schofield said of Great Britain's two opening games. "But we showed tonight that if we hold the ball, our defence is tight and we take our chances, then we're not a bad outfit."

Halfback Andy Gregory, who strained a groin but is likely to play on Friday, said: "I thought the defence was really good, and in attack what had been missing in the last couple of games started showing through today."

Although a couple of ineffective head-high tackles were attempted by the British early in the match, this was not a portent of what the Australians can expect on Friday, because the Lions quickly settled down, playing disciplined and solid football that impressed many.

Even Canberra coach Tim Sheens said: "They showed some good talent and plenty of toughness, and some of the skills from around their ruck area were very good."

Against the Raiders, Great Britain were without tour captain Ellery Hanley and stars such as Joe Lydon, Shaun Edwards and Lee Crooks.

But the backline - which included centres Paul Newlove and Paul Loughlin, fullback Graham Steadman and halves Schofield and Gregory - were close to the expected Test selections. They were impressive, particularly Steadman, who was safe under pressure.

GREAT BRITAIN 24 (A Platt 2, A Hunt, P Eastwood, P Newlove tries; G Steadman, P Loughlin goals) bt CANBERRA 12 (J Croker, M Spinks tries; R Stuart, A Friend goals) at Bruce Stadium. Crowd: 4,728. Referee: G McCallum.

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