League: Lions roar as Mason in hot water

By Steve Jancetic

Lions 23 Kangaroos 12

Australian coach Ricky Stuart labelled the Tri-Nations trophy anyone's for the taking after Great Britain stunned the Kangaroos with a 23-12 win in a spiteful contest at Aussie Stadium last night.

Written off as competition easybeats after a meek performance against New Zealand last week, the Lions put themselves in the box seat for a finals berth tonight as they rode the coat-tails of a stellar performance from halfback Sean Long, who came of age as a Test footballer.

Long finished with two try assists and a superb game all-round.

Of greater concern than the loss to the Australians - who are already assured of a place in the final - was a striking charge levelled at second rower Willie Mason after the Lions lodged an official complaint over his third minute right hook to the jaw of prop Stuart Fielden.

Mason will face a hearing on Monday night, his Tri-Nations future on the line.

Great Britain's first win in Australia in over 14 years puts the Lions two points ahead of the Kiwis heading into next week's clash between the two sides in Wellington, New Zealand needing a win to be any chance of making the November 25 decider against Australia.

"A lot of people were writing them off, I know the Pommies too well," Stuart said after the match.

"They have a lot of pride in their jumper, a lot of pride in their nation and they're proud people and that's the way they played tonight. I knew they'd be better than last week.

"What tonight shows, what last week showed, there's no one dominant force in this series.

"It shapes up to be a very interesting series, you can take your 'favouritisms' or your underdogs, there's no hot favourites in this series at the moment."

Mason's hit on Fielden was part of a stunning opening to the match in which Mason ensured the promised pre-match fireworks eventuated, going after the Lions like a man possessed.

Long was a particular target, but the tiny No 7 withstood the extra attention to put Paul Wellens over for a try just before the break, the Kangaroos having opened the scoring through a long range Greg Inglis try after a Ben Hornby intercept on his own line.

The two sides traded tries after the break with Australia bombing several opportunities with poor last play options before Long worked a move which led to Lee Gilmour crossing for the match-deciding try.

"(Long's) been much maligned at international level and I think he's cured that tonight," Great Britain coach Brian Noble said.

"Everybody can focus on the intercept he threw but he went and made the next try and he made another one and found a half decent kicking game which was pleasing for him."

Noble said he sensed through the team's build-up that an upset was on the cards.

"There was just that element of determination within the team right throughout the week ... you could sniff something like that," he said.

"I think what we showed is we've got some pretty good players in our country.

"We played quite well in parts last week and knew we had a whole lot of improvement in us and we took that into tonight."

The Lions have injury concerns over Brian Carney (hamstring) and Fielden (nose) while Mark Gasnier (hip pointer) says he should be right to play in Brisbane in a fortnight.


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