Published in Thirteen in 2005
First Ashes Test 2003
Great Britain v Australia
Wigan, November 8th
12th-Second Red Card costs GB
You convince yourself all season that this is the year we’ll beat the Aussies, and twelve seconds into the first Test, Britain’s best forward is sent back to the changing rooms for a high tackle on Robbie Kearns. Nightmare!
Few would have predicted that one of the great Test matches would follow as the hosts attempted to win their third Test match since 1989 after having a man sent off. Steve Hampson also went in the first minute that year against the Kiwis and five years later, Shaun Edwards was marched for a high shot on Bradley Clyde.
Morley had been in magnificent form for Sydney Roosters and his defensive ferocity had led them to back to back Grand Finals and had pundits like Peter Sterling labelling him the best forward in the world. Morley had been impressive against the Australians in 1997 and 1999 but had missed the 2001 Ashes series though injury. Neither was he fully fit during the 2000 World Cup, had also had to sit out the one off test match in Sydney in 2002 and had under performed against the Kiwis later that year so Morley had a point to prove.
And didn’t he try to prove it?! The opening kick off of the entire series hung in the air and in the blink of an eye, Morley hit the Melbourne prop like a train. The crowd rose to their feet to cheer a huge hit. It had happened so quickly that no one seemed to question its legality. What did for Morley was the fact that Kearns needed treatment and during the break the fourth official in the stands had time to study the incident and advise referee Steve Ganson that Morley should see red. This was the most sensational possible start to a test match and even the stoniest of hearts couldn’t have felt for Morley as the big screen showed him in tears in the changing room.
Under the circumstances, Britain’s subsequent performance was of the highest order; perhaps better than some of their past wins over the old enemy, bearing in mind the circumstances. The record book shows a defeat but it took a late Australian try to seal the match, something that would become a recurring theme through the series. Phil Bailey scored Australia’s opening try when he ran onto a great long pass from the mercurial Darren Lockyer. Brian Carney struck back for Great Britain moments later with Sean Long failing to convert after missing a sitter of a penalty goal earlier.
Lockyer engineered Australia’s second try when his grubber kick was collected by Trent Waterhouse to score on his debut. Craig Gower again missed with the conversion as Australia went into half time leading 8-4.
Great Britain struck immediately after half time when Keith Senior got on the outside of Phil Bailey from a scrum base to score as Michael Crocker spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for fighting. Long finally nailed a conversion to put Great Britain up 10-8 and added a penalty goal to push the lead out to 12-8.
Brett Kimmorley ran the ball on the last from dummy half close to the line and picked up Gower with a brilliant flat pass to score a decisive try. Fitzgibbon was spot on with the conversion to push the Kangaroos in front.
Gower messed up from the kick off and from the field position Carney scored his second try, after much perusal from the video referee. Substitute Paul Deacon converted from the sideline to give Great Britain a lead of 18-14 with less than ten minutes to go. One of test football’s most famous results was on the cards.
However, Australia once again ran the ball on the last tackle where Lockyer put Craig Wing into the clear with the inspirational Australian captain backing up on the inside to score the match-winner. Fitzgibbon converted and added a late penalty goal for the 22-18 victory.
Morley escaped a suspension and redeemed himself instantly in the second test at Hull by providing a miracle ball out of the tackle on the try line for Terry Newton to score but, despite a comfortable first half lead, Great Britain were beaten and the Ashes were gone for another year. The third Test merely rubbed salt into the wounds as Australia scored 12 points in the last four minutes to win 18-12 and complete a whitewash.
All three games had been absolute classics, with Australia only scoring 13 more points over the three games.
Great Britain 18 (Carney 2 & Senior tries. Long 2 & Deacon goals)
Australia 22 (Bailey, Waterhouse, Gower & Lockyer tries. Fitzgibbon 3 goals)
Great Britain: Radlinski, Carney, Connolly, Senior, Horne, Sculthorpe, Long, Fielden, Newton, Morley, Peacock, Farrell, Forshaw. Subs: Anderson, McDermott, Deacon, Gilmour
Australia: Lockyer, Hegarty, Bailey, Wing, Minichiello, Gower, Kimmorley, Webcke, Buderus, Kearns, Fitzgibbon, Simpson, Ricketson. Subs: Civoniceva, Waterhouse, Mason, Crocker