The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) has praised the combined efforts of police and security staff for preventing a potentially ugly brawl escalating during the Kiwis Tri-Nations test against Great Britain at Jade Stadium last night.

A brawl erupted midway through the second half between intoxicated Kiwis fans seated behind the goalposts in the DB Draught stand, prompting a swift response from police and stadium security.

At its peak about 15-20 patrons were involved in the skirmish thought to be provoked by a group of men consistently chanting obscenities to Australian referee Paul Simpkins.

Great Britain fans were not involved.

The fight was quickly defused with police leading away the ringleaders and a police spokesman later reported no arrests had been made at the ground during the test, won by the Kiwis 18-14.

NZRL chief executive Sel Pearson said the incident was "not a sharp look" for the game but praised the quick intervention of security personnel.

"They did seem to nip it in the bid quite quick, I'm just thrilled it didn't get out of hand," said Pearson, who added the NZRL would review security measures with police.

Pearson blamed the pre-match consumption of alcohol outside the ground for the level of intoxication saying many fans were already "primed up" before they passed through the gates.

The late 8pm kick-off slot to work in with overseas broadcasters was also a complicating factor he said.

Pearson implored league fans to be better behaved in the Kiwis last home outing against Great Britain in Wellington on November 11 after a couple of incidents also marred the Tri-Nations opener with the Kangaroos in Auckland on October 14.

There was also minor crowd trouble at Mt Smart Stadium with the most serious incident involving a plastic beer bottle being thrown at Kiwis lock Simon Mannering as he lay exhausted after narrowly failing to run down try-bound Australian centre Mark Gasnier during the first half.

Meanwhile, NZRL officials were relieved at the 17,005 official turnout last night, after fearing the Canterbury lead community would fail to back the Kiwis first test in Christchurch since 1996.

"It was looking decidedly shaky," said Pearson after revealing only 5500 tickets had been sold by late Thursday.

"It turned out a heck of a lot better than we thought a couple of days before."

The Christchurch crowd was just marginally smaller than the 17,889 that turned out at Mt Smart, boosting the chances of the Kiwis returning south again in the future.

- NZPA