Great Britain Lions 4 Tonga Invitational XIII 16: Beaten Lions vow to his back after shock tour defeat by Tongans

Great Britain are vowing to bounce back from the embarrassment of an opening defeat by a Tongan Invitational XIII as they prepare for back-to-back Tests against New Zealand.

Sunday, 27th October 2019, 10:03 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th October 2019, 10:04 pm
John Bateman scores Great Britain's try

Great Britain are vowing to bounce back from the embarrassment of an opening defeat by a Tongan Invitational XIII as they prepare for back-to-back Tests against New Zealand.

Back in action after a 12-year absence, the Lions are licking their wounds after being given a rude awakening on their return to the international scene in Hamilton.

The tourists went down 14-6 to the talented Pacific Islanders and also lost prop Luke Thompson and centre Oliver Gildart to rib and shoulder injuries which are expected to end their tour.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Prop Tom Burgess said: “We’ve got to look at where we can improve. We matched them on effort, we’ve just got to tidy a few things up and execute a little bit better.

“Tonga played well and fair play to them. It’s good to see them up there competing with the top tier teams but we need to have a look this week and see where we can get better.

“We’ve got quite a few players coming in who are new to the team. We didn’t have a mid-season Test so it has been 12 months since we’ve been together.

“We need to have a good week’s training and look forward to New Zealand.”

The Kiwis, too, will go in Saturday’s first Test in Auckland on the back of a sobering defeat, Michael Maguire’s men proving no match for Australia in a 26-4 defeat in Woollongong.

“They’re a good football team as well but it’s more about ourselves,” said stand-off Gareth Widdop.

“We need to hold the ball and we need a better kicking game. If can do that and build some pressure on them, it will make the game a lot easier.

“Tonga are a good football team, we knew that, but we probably didn’t make it easy for ourselves. I thought the effort was really good but when you are giving up so much ball it’s difficult, we just didn’t have enough time to wind it back.

“Obviously it’s a disappointing result but we’ll move on and get back in training this week, work hard and look to produce a better performance next week.”

Lions coach Wayne Bennett will bring in utility back Jake Connor in place of Gildart while Jack Hughes could profit from the absence of Thompson, having been the other player to be left out of his 19-man squad in Hamilton.

Meanwhile, the victorious Tongans will join Great Britain in making the move up to Auckland where they will take on the Kangaroos in a triple-header at Eden Park on Saturday.

Warrington forward Ben Murdoch-Masila, one of three Super League-based players in the Tongan team, says the Pacific Islanders are confident of being able to claim another major scalp.

“Obviously coming up against the number one country in the world will be a good test for us but, going on Saturday’s performance, I think we’re in with a chance,” he said.

“We’re real proud of what we’ve done, we’ve made a statement.”

There is less definitive news of Britain’s other casualty from the bruising game at the Waikato Stadium, St Helens prop Luke Thompson, who went off with a rib injury after just 12 minutes.

The spokesman said Thompson was being treated by the Great Britain medical team and remains in the squad.

The Lions play two Tests against the Kiwis, in Auckland and Christchurch, before rounding off the tour with a match against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.