Published in Thirteen, 2005
The third Test 1985
Great Britain v New Zealand
Leeds, November 9th 1985
Crooks the Saviour
GREAT BRITAIN secured a last-minute draw – and subsequently a series draw – as substitute forward Lee Crooks kicked a harshly awarded late from the sideline.
Crooks’s penalty, in addition to his two others, ensured a 6-6 draw.
New Zealand had arrived in Britain on the back of an 18-0 win over Australia in the third Trans-Tasman test of that year. The series had been lost but the emphatic nature of the win, along with how unlucky New Zealand had been in the second Test (John Ribot had snatched victory with a late try) led to many believing the Kiwis were the best side in the world.
So, when New Zealand won 24-22 in the first Test at Headingley, it may have been a disappointment but no real surprise. That game is best remembered for a couple of scorching tries. Firstly, Joe Lydon finished off a sweeping length of the field move starting with Des Drummond in his own in-goal area. The winger found Ellery Hanley who broke upfield and found the supporting Lydon with a lobbed pass. It was a magnificent try fit to win any game but Great Britain, now under the captaincy of Harry Pinner, were denied by a late James Leuluai try after a fantastic offload by Kurt Sorensen. Olsen Filipaina kicked an easy conversion to win the game.
The second Test belonged to Garry Schofield. With his place under threat after an indifferent performance at Headingley and a missed tackle on Dane O’Hara that led to the Leuluai try, the Hull centre scored all four of Great Britain’s tries at Wigan in a runaway 25-8 victory. Hanley twice, John Fieldhouse and Pinner had provided the assists and the series was alive. In fact, it had been turned on its head. After such an emphatic win, Great Britain appeared to be favourites to clinch the series at Elland Road.
In a brutal game of Rugby League, defences were on top throughout the game, as the scoreline indicates. The game resembled a warzone at times and when touchjudge Don Watson reported a late foul to Australian referee Barry ‘Grasshopper’ Gomersall, Crooks converted his shot at goal from outwide with coach Maurice Bamford unable to look and an incredible series had ended in dramatic fashion.
Earlier on, the Kiwis’ best player Mark Graham had scored the game’s only try eight minutes before half time which was converted by Dane Sorensen for a 6-0 interval lead.
Crooks’s other penalties came earlier in the second half as the British set up one of the most famous finishes to a series in Test-match football.
Great Britain 6 (Lee Crooks 3 goals.)
New Zealand 6 (Mark Graham try. Dane Sorensen goal.)
Great Britain: Mick Burke, Des Drummond, Garry Schofield, Shaun Edwards, Joe Lydon, Ellery Hanley, Deryck Fox, Jeff Grayshon, David Watkinson, John Fieldhouse, Andy Goodway, Ian Potter, Harry Pinner. Subs: Chris Arkwright & Lee Crooks.
New Zealand: Gary Kemble, Darrell Williams, Dean Bell, James Leuluai, Dane O’Hara, Fred Ah Kuoi, Clayton Friend, Kevin Tamati, Wayne Wallace, Dane Sorensen, Mark Graham, Kurt Sorensen, Gary Prohm. Subs: Olsen Filipaina & Hugh McGahan.