New Zealand claimed a narrow 12-8 win against Great Britain at Eden Park to condemn the Lions to a second consecutive tour defeat. Here’s how the action unfolded.
New Zealand deservedly claimed a four-point victory against Great Britain in Auckland as Wayne Bennett’s Lions lost their second tour game in as many matches.
Despite losing half-back Kieran Foran to an early injury, the Kiwis took the lead inside 10 minutes when Jamayne Isaako easily slotted a penalty between the sticks.
Great Britain responded with a penalty of their own on 17 minutes, when Gareth Widdop kicked a similarly simple attempt to draw the team’s level.
There were few try-scoring opportunities in the opening 40 minutes with New Zealand looking the more threatening of the two sides in the final quarter of the half.
With a lack of creativity in attack from both teams, the score was two-apiece when the half-time hooter sounded.
New Zealand finally crossed for the game’s first try on 49 minutes when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck made a lightning break before offloading to Isaako to dot down in the corner.
The Kiwis scored a second try on 56 minutes when Corey Harawira-Naera powered his way over the try-line and grounded the ball despite pressure from several Great Britain defenders.
However, the Lions kept themselves in the contest when Daryl Clark collected a loose ball before shrugging off a defender and grounding under pressure with 12 minutes left to play.
The tourists then had a chance to draw themselves level when Jermaine McGillvary dived for the corner only for Jesse Bromwich to produce a tremendous try-saving tackle.
That tackle kept the Kiwis four-point advantage intact as they saw out the final few minutes to bounce back from their defeat to Australia last week and take a one-nil lead in their two-game series with the Lions.
For Bennett’s Lions, it’s back to the drawing board after consecutive defeats ahead of their repeat fixture with New Zealand in Christchurch next Saturday.
Great Britain made three changes from the side beaten by a Tonga invitational side last week, with Jonny Lomax, Jake Connor and Tom Burgess all coming into Wayne Bennett’s starting line-up.
As for New Zealand, Brandon Smith was dropped prior to kick-off after “failing to meet standards” set by Kiwis coach Michael Maguire with Kodi Nikorima taking his place in the side.
The other headline team news saw Foran handed just his second international appearance in four-and-a-half years as he came in for an out of sorts Shaun Johnson.
However, Foran’s fairy-tale return to the international stage lasted less than six minutes when he suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder.
It took just eight minutes for the first points to be scored when Isaako kicked a goal after some ill-discipline from the Lions before Widdop levelled the scores with a penalty of his own in a tight opening 20 minutes.
With chances few and far between, McGillvary made an excellent leap to pluck a high ball out of the sky and prevent the deadly Ken Maumalo from taking in the kick close to the Lions try line.
Some superb defence from Great Britain then saw them push New Zealand back into their in-goal area only for the Kiwis to produce a stunning offload to allow Tuivasa-Sheck to run the ball to safety.
The Kiwis ramped up the pressure in the final 10 minutes of the half and came close to scoring seconds before the half-time hooter sounded only for Joseph Manu to knock-on following a blistering break up-field.
With the teams heading into the interval at two-apiece it was New Zealand who would strike first in the second period.
Tuivasa-Sheck used some fine footwork to create a gap in front him which he then burst into before offloading to the waiting Isaako to touch down in the corner but couldn’t convert his own try from the touchline.
Minutes later, New Zealand were almost over again when Briton Nikora grounded the ball over the try-line only for the try to be correctly ruled out for a knock-on from Nikora as he attempted to collect Benji Marshall’s kick through.
New Zealand’s pressure paid off when Harawira-Naera showed great strength to hold off four Great Britain defenders and ground the ball over the try-line with the try awarded by the video referee before being successfully converted by Isaako.
In what had been a quiet affair, flare ups in quick succession between James Graham and Joseph Tapine and Tuivasa-Sheck and John Bateman brought some much-needed ferocity and passion to the contest.
Great Britain scored their first try on 68 minutes when Nikora stripped the ball out of a tackle only for Clark to pick up the pieces and fend off a pair of would-be tacklers before grounding the ball and converting his own try.
McGillvary then had a chance to draw the Lions level in the final few minutes, after a well-worked Great Britain move, only for a magnificent try-saving tackle from Bromwich to dislodge the ball as the Huddersfield Giants man dived for the corner.
New Zealand comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to claim a deserved victory, having had the better of the play, but both teams will want to produce a better performance when they meet in Christchurch next weekend.
New Zealand 12
Tries: Isaako, Harawira-Naera
Goals: Isaako 2
Drop Goals: n/a
Great Britain 8
Goals: Widdop, Clark
Drop Goals: n/a
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck, Maumalo, Nicoll-Klokstad, Manu, Isaako, Foran, Marshall, Tetevano, Nikorima, Waerea-Hargreaves, Nikora, Bromwich, Tapine
Interchanges: Hughes, Harawira-Naera, Ah Mau, Blair
Great Britain: Lomax, McGillvary, Hardaker, Connor, Hall, Widdop, Hastings, Hill, Hodgson, Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham
Interchanges: Jones, Philbin, Clark, Walmsley