Lions earn hard fought win over NZ Defence Forces

BARLA Great Britain Lions 26 v 12 New Zealand Defence Forces North Arena, Luzhniky, Moscow

BARLA Great Britain Lions with seven players making debuts got off to a superb start in the Victory Cup with a hard fought win over the New Zealand Defence Force by 26-12.

Going behind at the beginning of the first half Lions Captain Tommy Goulden drove over on the stroke of half time, which gave the side a 10-4 lead. A penalty and two unconverted tries in the opening twelve minutes of the second half gave them control at 20-4, although the plucky Defence Forces had the final word with a last minute try.

On his try Goulden said, "It was just a run off the line, look for the gaps. That's what you get taught in training, get your head down, and hope to burrow through. We did need that try and it gave us a lift at half time when we were leading. So I thought we bounced back well in the second half."

The Lions started well in the early stages putting pressure on the Kiwis line, but only a try saving tackle by man of the match Carl Rudd on eight minutes when he forced New Zealand winger Malcolm Alker into touch by the corner flag stopped the opening score of the game.

A minute later Lions stand off John McMullen was called back for a borderline forward pass with a clear 40 metres of space ahead.

New Zealand began sharp passing and offloads with halfbacks Koro Hati and Lance Tahiwi directing operations with centre Joe Taipari and they took the lead on fourteen minutes following a scrum. Tahiwi put the ball out to Taipari who passed out to Logan Bax to go through the gap for a try. Lawrence Erihe conversion struck the post.

The setback spurred the Lions on who replied after eighteen minutes when on the third tackle following a penalty Goulden drove forward and passed inside to debutant Patterson who went through a gap 15 metres out. Rudd landed the conversation to make it 6-4 to Great Britain.

New Zealand had a clear chance on twenty-seven minutes but Taipari knocked on with the line beckoning and William Keene had a try disallowed on thirty-seven minutes for a double movement.

From the resulting penalty the Lions moved up field and increased their lead. On the last tackle Goulden took the ball up from dummy half and despite four would be tacklers burrowed over the line in the corner for the try to make it 10-4.

Two minutes into the second half saw Lions debut winger Chris lee held short after he supported a break down the blindside by substitute Carl Hughes. Attempting a quick play the ball referee Ashley Klien penalised New Zealand and Rudd made it 12/4.

On forty five minutes following another penalty the Lions went further ahead as Patterson scored his second and seven minutes later Rudd, who had put his influence on the game, received the ball and found space to go through a huge gap to score to make it 20-4. Rudd could not kick the extras.

It was still nip and tuck with Paul Davidson, Darren Mitchell, Scott Teare, and Lee Wingfield putting in the hard yards and big hits.

With fourteen minutes remaining the Lions lost the ball on their own twenty-metre line and on the fifth tackle Whiteariki Wharepapa scored for New Zealand in the corner. Koro Hati missed the conversion.

On seventy four minutes Lee took an outside pass from Rudd to score the try to make sure there was comeback from the Defence Force with Rudd adding the extras to make it 26-8.

With two minutes remaining Lions hooker Darren Mitchell was sin binned for a professional foul and from the resulting penalty New Zealand's Taipari went over for a final score of 26-12.

The Lions await France in the crunch game for a place in the Victory Cup Final.

On his sides win coach Mick Turner said, "I thought we made hard work of it, we set off at 110mph. We had seven debutants and I expected that because the enthusiasm was oozing through the team and our main problem was getting control of ourselves so that we could play to our game plan.

He added "It was a great performance from the whole squad to say we got knocked about a lot. We just rose to the challenge.

In the opening match of the tournament, the Rugby League Ireland Wolfhounds A squad gained revenge against the United States Tomahawks winning 74 - 16. It was only a few months ago when the Tomahawks defeated Ireland 41 - 10 over in Savannah, Georgia (USA), with the USA side in form after their tour of Australia. However, Ireland have trained well since then, and have shown they intend on pushing their claims for the Victory Cup.

BARLA Great Britain Lions 1 Matthew Rogers (Eastmoor Dragons) 2 Carl Jones (Wigan St Patricks) 3 Gavin Corfield (Wigan St Judes) 4 Carl Rudd (Wath Brow Hornets) 5 Chris Lee (West Hull) 6 John McMullen (Wigan St Judes) 7 Daniel Kilshaw (Leigh East) 8 Paul Davidson (Wath Brow Hornets) 9 Darren Mitchell (Thatto Heath) 10 Mark Deans (Wath Brow Hornets) 11 Lee Wingfield (Leigh East) 12 Dave Patterson (Leigh MR) 13 Tommy Goulden Capt. (Leigh MR) 14 Carl Hughes (Stanley Rangers) 15 Scott Teare (WathBrow Hornets) 16 Dave Goddard (Army) 17 Paul Raftery (Eccles & Salford)

New Zealand Defence Forces 1 Logan Bax 2 Nathan Ngaru 3 Casey Paniora 4 Joe Taipari 5 Malcolm Alker 6 Lance Tahiwi 7 Koro Hati 8 Witeariki Wharepapa 9 Lawrence Erihe 10 Sene Fidow 11 Tony Greig 13 Trevor Baker 14 Willy Keene 15 Joel Ngatuere 16 Philip Hales 17 Joe Waiariki

Remaining Victory Cup 2004 Fixtures

Group A

12 May 2004 Russia v USA Kick Off:18.00, Moscow, Big Sport Arena

16 May 2004 Ireland v Russia Kick Off:16.00, Moscow, Big Sport Arena

Group B

13 May 2004 BARLA v France Kick Off: 17.00, Moscow, North Arena

17 May 2004 France v New Zealand Kick Off: 17.00, Moscow, North Arena

Victory Cup Final, 20th of May at the Big Sport Arena