The touring Great Britain rugby league side spoiled its unbeaten record in New Zealand, going down 18-11 to the Kiwis in the last of the three Tests, at Auckland’s Carlaw Park.
Britain led 11-8 at halftime after recovering from a six points deficit in the first six minutes. It was New Zealand’s first victory over Britain since they beat the 1974 tourists 13-8 on the same ground.
It was a torrid encounter, and the British were never completely in charge, as they were in the first two Tests, which they won 16-8 in Auckland and 22-7 in Christchurch.
Britain, coached by Test legend, Eric Ashton, also had beaten a Maori selection 15-13 at Whangerei; Northern Districts 58-5 at Huntly; Central Districts 14-5 at New Plymouth; Wellington 39-3 and West Coast 19-0 at Greymouth. Two days after the Third Test, Britain defeated Auckland 18-10, a great achievement considering the short turnaround and the fact Auckland had beaten Australia, Britain and France in 1977.
British manager, Harry Womersley said the Kiwis had deserved to win the Third Test, after his side had failed to take advantage of their chances in the second half.
“The win will do the code of rugby league the world of good in New Zealand, where it is an amateur game,” Womersley said.
New Zealand’s tries were scored by Mark Graham, Dane O’Hara, James Leuluai and Kevin Fisher, while Olsen Filipaina kicked three goals. Britain’s tries were scored by Mike Smith, Eric Hughes and Gary Stephens. Scotsman, George Fairbairn kicked one goal.
Widnes’ forward, Doug Laughton had been named tour captain, but injuries restricted him to five appearances and just one Test. He was replaced as skipper by George Nicholls from St Helens.
The side lost the series 3-0 in Australia for the first time since tours down under began in 1910, but the only other defeat in Australia was against Toowoomba. Their most noteworthy wins were against Queensland, New South Wales, Newcastle and Illawarra.
South African winger, Dave Barends (Bradford Northern) became the first non-Briton to tour, gaining selection after satisfying residential requirements.
Welshman, Jim Mills (Widnes) did not make the New Zealand leg of the tour, flying back to Britain after being ruled out with injury.
It saved an embarrassing situation for the code, because New Zealand had indicated it would not play against a British side which included Mills, after an incident in a World Series match in Swansea, Wales in 1975. In that match, Mills trod on the head of Kiwi forward, John Greengrass, after Greengrass scored a try.
Photo 1: George Nicholls seeks a new pair of shorts in Auckland
Photo 2: Jim Mills.