New Zealand 23 Great Britain 8
More misery. More gloom. More concern.
Great Britain head to Port Moresby to face Papua New Guinea next Saturday desperate to avoid the indignity of being whitewashed in what has proved a disastrous tour.
The Lions were revived after a 12-year absence but a third defeat in as many weeks may now see the concept scrapped for good.
After an opening loss to a Tonga Invitational XIII, Wayne Bennett’s side have come off second best against New Zealand in back-to-back Tests.
The veteran coach has come under increased scrutiny over his squad selection which included six half-backs but just two wingers and only one specialist centre.
Bennett has been employed by the Rugby Football League as England coach for the past four years and his contract is due to expire shortly.
Tasked with the role of doubling up as Great Britain coach for this tour, the 69-year-old Australian has seemingly viewed the Lions as an extension of the England side.
RFL rugby director Kevin Sinfield was in Christchurch to witness this demoralising defeat and was given plenty to ponder ahead of England’s Ashes series against Australia next year before the 2021 World Cup, both to held on home soil.
Asked about his future, Bennett said: “That’s a decision they’ve got to make. My contract finishes next week so we’ll see what they want to do.”
Bennett, having led England to the 2017 World Cup final and a Test series win over the Kiwis last year, remains popular with his players and is keen to continue in the post. But the squad has lacked balance and that was again reflected on the field, with Warrington stand-off Blake Austin forced to play on the wing after Ryan Hall got injured last week.
Tries from Joseph Manu and Shaun Johnson tries left the Lions facing a 16-2 half-time deficit. Ken Maumalo added a third home score before Josh Hodgson’s try gave the tourists faint hope of an improbable comeback.
Bennett, who will pick Leeds winger Ash Handley next week, added: “They played much better than we did, that’s probably the best way to sum it up. “We didn’t get off on the right foot against Tonga two weeks ago and we haven’t picked it up from where we were the last time we played.
“I’m not happy we’re going backwards. I think we’ve gone backwards a little from last year and the World Cup year.”
With the likes of Castleford coach Daryl Powell and former Wigan boss Shaun Wane among the candidates to succeed Bennett, Sinfield and co have a huge call to make.