New Zealand kept their rugby league Tri-Nations title hopes alive in stunning form yesterday with an emphatic 34-4 drubbing of Great Britain.
The Kiwis made a definitive statement about their depth of commitment with the six-tries-to-one victory, bouncing back from the Nathan Fien ineligibility affair which cost them their points from beating the Lions in the first round.
Faced with a 28-point differential before the match, Kiwi coach Bluey McClennan put pressure on his side by demanding a 14-point winning margin.
They matched that and more in their first legitimate win of the series putting them in credit against the Lions.
A crucial factor in the New Zealand win was the performance of Stacey Jones, who was directly involved in setting up four tries and capped the touchdowns with five out of six goal attempts.
His opposite Sean Long had an outing to forget, just a week after he orchestrated Great Britain's upset win over Australia.
His kicking was astray and he spilled a pass five minutes from the break when a try seemed certain.
Great Britain must now regroup and beat Australia next week if they are to make the Tri-Nations finals, while New Zealand need the Kangaroos to beat the Lions if they are to defend their crown.
Great Britain were denied two tries by the video referees in the dramatic match, which saw rival centers Steve Matai and Keith Senior both sin-binned following an early punch up.
Just before halftime Gareth Raynor was deemed not to have control of the ball as he dived over the line, and in the second spell Paul Wellens ran interference when Leon Pryce carved his way to the line.
But the Lions never looked in control as the Kiwis dominated possession and territory, looking by far the hungrier of the two sides.
Nigel Vagana had them on the board first in the 10th minute when he forced his way over the line in a three-man tackle.
Vagana, the Kiwis' record try scorer, defied Terry Newton, Jamie Peacock and Paul Wellens to notch his 19th try to calm the Kiwis' nerves after an anxious beginning.
That ignited a short, sharp scoring burst where Brent Webb scored after Jones doubled around Sean Long. Webb then came into the line on a sharp angle to score again.
Between the two Webb tries, Manu Vatuvei gifted Great Britain their only points when he knocked-on a high kick and Gareth Ellis snapped up the loose ball and scored.
The Kiwis led 16-4 at halftime, and extended their lead 10 minutes into the second half when Nathan Cayless dived on a deft Jones kick over the line.
Minutes later Vatuvei made amends for his first-half error when he finished off an orthodox backline move to cross wide out. He then scampered towards the posts to make it easier for Jones to add the extra points.
With 10 minutes remaining, Kiwi skipper Ruben Wiki rounded off the scoring spree when he gathered up a Jones kick which bounced off the cross bar.
While statisticians had a field day leading up to the match working out the various permutations, Wiki attributed New Zealand's success to disregarding the pressure.
"We just went out and didn't worry about the points," he said. "We stuck to the plan and we really enjoyed it today."
Great Britain captain Jamie Peacock rated his side's performance as "very poor".
"We were ordinary to say the least with the ball and I'm very disappointed," he said. "It's not the way we trained or played last week so we are going to have to improve next week."
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