New Zealand 23-8 Great Britain | Great Britain lose to Kiwis in Christchurch

It was more disappointment in New Zealand for GB
It was more disappointment in New Zealand for GB

Great Britain's eagerly-awaited return after a 12-year absence is turning into a nightmare after they suffered a third straight defeat on their tour of New Zealand.

Beaten 14-6 in their opening game by a Tongan Invitational XIII, the Lions showed signs of improvement in going down 12-8 in the first Test with the Kiwis but it was back to square one in Christchurch, where they played dismally and were beaten 23-8 on Saturday.

A 2-0 series whitewash piles the pressure on coach Wayne Bennett, whose contract is up at the end of the year and who will be looking for consolation when he takes his side to Port Moresby for their last match against Papua New Guinea next Saturday.

On this performance, Britain will struggle to beat the Kumuls, who pushed Fiji all the way before going down 22-20 in an Oceania Cup match played as a curtain-raiser at the Orangetheory Stadium.

There was little to choose between the teams in Auckland but this time the Kiwis were far superior and a total of three tries in three matches sums up the Lions' inadequacies.

New Zealand had all the aces, in particular Shaun Johnson, a regular scourge of England who had a point to prove after being dropped for the first Test.

Johnson, who broke England hearts in the 2013 World Cup semi-final, sent centre Joseph Manu over for the first try and jinked his way over for one of his own before half-time to put his side into an unassailable 16-2 lead.

Johnson deliberately targeted makeshift Lions winger Blake Austin, whose selection out of position exposed Bennett's ill-judged squad selection.

The Warrington stand-off came up with the first error of the game after only three minutes, fumbling Johnson's bomb, which set the tone for a wretched first half.

Jamayne Isaako and Gareth Widdop traded early penalties, just as they did in the first Test, before the Kiwis half-backs engineered an opening for Manu to score the first try after 12 minutes.

Britain looked to hit back straight away but a handling error by Tom Burgess on the first tackle in front of the New Zealand posts knocked the stuffing out of them and Isaako nudged his side further ahead with two penalty goals.

Johnson's solo try just before half-time and an acrobatic finish from winger Ken Maumalo early in the second half enabled the Kiwis to strengthen their grip on the game as they led 20-2.

The introduction of Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley and Josh Jones from the bench injected more punch and purpose into the Lions attack and a superb offload from a four-man tackle by Jones got hooker Josh Hodgson over for a 50th-minute try.

Widdop added the conversion and Britain almost scored again when second rower John Bateman chased Widdop's grubber kick only to be beaten to the touch by full-back Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Jake Connor was also denied as the tourists piled the pressure on in the last 15 minutes but without creating enough chances to make it count and Isaako wrapped up the scoring with a drop goal and a fourth penalty on the stroke of full-time.

Post-match reaction

England coach Wayne Bennett admits the national team have gone backwards as Great Britain as he waits to find out if he will remain in charge.

The veteran Australian made the admission after watching the Lions go down 23-8 to New Zealand in the second Test in Christchurch to lose the series 2-0.

After guiding England to the 2017 World Cup final and a 2-1 series victory over the Kiwis on home soil 12 months ago, Bennett had hoped to use the return of Great Britain after a 12-year absence as key preparation for the next World Cup in 2021.

Before then, England host the Kangaroos in a revived Ashes Series next autumn and Bennett is still waiting to hear from the Rugby Football League if his contract will be renewed.

"That's a decision they've got to make," he said. "My contract finishes next week so we'll see what they want to do."

Bennett's men started their four-match tour with a 14-6 defeat by a Tonga Invitational XIII and now move on to Papua New Guinea where they will hope to avoid a whitewash.

They trailed 20-2 at the Orangetheory Stadium after conceding tries to Joseph Manu, Shaun Johnson and Ken Maumalo before staging a brief revival sparked by a 50th-minute try from Josh Hodgson.

"They played much better than we did, that's probably the best way to sum it up," Bennett said.

"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, respecting the opposition enough to realise how much discipline we've got to play with.

"I'm not happy we're going backwards. I think we've gone backwards a little from last year and the World Cup year."

Bennett, who has made no secret of his desire to stay on as England coach, insists there are positives to take from the Lions tour as he looks to the future.

"We can take a lot out of it," he said. "The next year and obviously the World Cup years are the prime years. We've brought a lot of players here who haven't played before and tried a few new combinations.

"If we have to have a stumble, this is the year to do it in.

"We've lost obviously Sam (Burgess) and Sean O'Loughlin, which are big losses for us, but there's a strong group of players that will get us through the next two years.

"I just want to try to get them altogether at one time and go from there.

"I think one of the things that has affected us this year is that we didn't have a mid-season Test and also I think our preparation time probably wasn't long enough to go into the Tonga game.

"But their attitude to training and all the other stuff is outstanding. Their behaviour, all the things you want out of your footy team, they match up on, we've just got to get back to playing the way we did before."

Bennett singled out makeshift winger Blake Austin and second rower John Bateman for special praise.

"I thought he (Austin) was one of our best ball carriers," he said. "He made a real contribution.

"John Bateman is always one of my favourites. He's still playing when everybody else has stopped."

Bennett says half-backs George Williams and Jake Trueman will almost certainly play against Papua New Guinea after being the only members of his initial 24-man squad not to get a game so far.

"There won't be any wholesale changes," he said. "I'll make a few because a couple of the boys haven't had a game.

"I don't want them away for a month without giving them a game of football. They are quality players and I need to see how they go."

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