The Lions Tour of Oceania was in danger of turning into a whitewash after last weekends 12-8 loss to New Zealand. This week the rugby league world turned its eyes to Christchurch for the second contest with the Kiwis, the Lions desperate for the win to regain some pride.
Great Britain lost the services of Ryan Hall and Zak Hardaker with Blake Austin being selected on the wing by coach Bennett. Shaun Johnson was recalled for the Kiwi’s after being dropped for last weeks match and was certain to be looking to prove a point.
Conditions were oppressively hot at the OrangeTheory Stadium as the sides took the field for another bruising encounter.
It was a two point start for the Kiwis after conceeding a penalty while defending a Blake Austin dropped ball. Jamayne Isaako threaded the ball between the uprights to get the scoreboard moving after four minutes. The Lions responded immediately with their own penalty goal, from the boot of Gareth Widdop after James Graham had been held down in the tackle.
It was a far more open start compared to the first test. On twelve minutes Joseph Manu stretched for the line to ground one-handed despite the attention of three defenders. Isaako pulled the conversion attempt across the front of the posts.
The Lions held down in the tackle on twenty-five giving Isaako a second penalty goal to extend the lead to 8-2. An illegal ball strip by the Lions on twenty-nine gifted Isaako his third goal of the evening to extend the lead to eight points.
Six minutes from the interval and Shaun Johnson proved his point as he stepped his way through the GB defence to wrong foot Elliott Whitehead and score by the sticks. Isaako made no mistake with the goal which saw New Zealand pulling clear of a shell shocked Lions.
It only took five minutes of the second half for the home side to extend their lead thanks to a flying Ken Maumalo scoring one-handed in the corner while airborne. Isaako was unable to add the conversion from wide on the touchline.
GB saw a chink of light on fifty when Josh Hodgson took a Josh Jones offload and went around the back of the ruck to run over unopposed and score. Widdop added the conversion for 8-20.
On sixty-five the Lions almost got their second as Jon Bateman chased a Widdop grubber but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck managed to flick the ball dead before the second rower could ground it.
A seventy-fourth minute Isaako drop goal extended the lead to three scores with a twenty-five metre drop goal. The Lions heads turned to the floor, the game was over.
The final action of the game was yet another Isaako penalty goal with a few seconds left on the clock, New Zealand securing a 23-8 win and a 2-0 series win.
Once again the GB Lions were outplayed and outsmarted as they crashed to a third tour loss in what is rapidly becoming a disastrous tour. There will be a final chance to regain some pride in Port Moresby next week when they take on Papua New Guinea, but even a win there would do little to mask the disappointment of what has unfolded over the last three Saturdays.
It is easy to look towards injuries and withdrawals while searching for reasons, but there were plenty of high quality players available who should really have done better than they managed to achieve.
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck, Maumalo (T), Nicoll-Klokstad, Manu (T), Isaako (5G, DG), Johnson (T), Marshall, Tetevano, Smith, Waerea-Hargreaves, Nikora, Harawire-Naera, Tapine. Subs: Nikorima, Proctor, Ah Mau, Blair.
GB Lions: Lomax, McGillvary, Hughes, Connor, Austin, Widdop (2G), Hastings, Hill, Hodgson (T), Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham. Subs: Jones, Thompson, Clark, Walmsley.
Referees: Gerard Sutton.