Great Britain Lions do not need to 'panic' - boss Wayne Bennett on Tonga loss

Great Britain Lions do not need to "panic" despite defeat in their opening tour match and the likely loss of two key players, says head coach Wayne Bennett.

The Lions, in their first appearance since 2007, were beaten 14-6 by a Tonga Invitational XIII in Hamilton.

Prop Luke Thompson went off with a rib injury and centre Oliver Gildart dislocated his shoulder.

"I don't think they will play again in this series," said Bennett.

In a brutal contest, St Helens forward Thompson managed just 12 minutes, while Gildart departed with his right arm in a sling in the second half.

Ireland prop Joe Philbin or Warrington's Jack Hughes could come into the forward line as replacements for Thompson, while Hull FC's Jake Connor offers cover for Gildart.

Bennett said: "I am happy with the squad right now. We can cover - it is not panic time for us."

'We fell apart a little bit'

James Graham
James Graham became only the fourth British player to play in 50 Test matches

The Lions failed to gain any period of control in the game, encountering a fired-up Tonga side who had reached the semi-finals of the 2017 World Cup.

They were billed as an Invitational XIII because of a dispute involving the country's governing body, but it was a Tonga national side in all but name.

Bennett's side fell 14-0 down and only got on the scoreboard with 10 minutes remaining courtesy of John Bateman's effort in the corner.

Great Britain play the first of two Tests against New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday, 2 November (04:00 GMT kick-off).

Bennett told BBC Sport: "There was good and bad. I thought we went back to where we were a couple of years ago because there were too many errors and not enough patience shown.

"[Tonga] are a quality team and all the players are top guys in their positions. We knew we had a hard game on our hands. We fell apart a little bit in the second half.

"Our kicking game is not where it should have been and we were not patient enough. We started to make unforced errors in the second half which denied us the opportunity to score tries.

"We needed this. We have not played with each other for 12 months and that has an impact on us as well. We have a game behind us and now we go to New Zealand, who were beaten by Australia."

Skipper James Graham, who became only the fourth British player to play in 50 Test matches, added: "We knew it would be physical. In the first half they were outstanding and just took their opportunities when they got them.

"In the second half they played so well from in front. They didn't give us much of a chance."

Analysis - GB looked a little rusty

Former Great Britain coach Brian Noble told BBC Sport:

"You cannot give a team like Tonga, an established top-four team with superstars in their game, a start, and Great Britain did. The first half was a bit scruffy but Tonga got a foothold and were allowed to continue to roll the Lions team down the hill and eventually they could not claw the deficit back.

"Next week, Great Britain will have to make sure they are in the arm-wrestle. The tries came from ricochets from kicks and they looked a little rusty in the first half. They will be a lot more ready next week.

"The Tonga fans are very passionate and it is a brilliant result for international rugby league. It is not a disaster for the Lions because they have three more games on this trip to prove their worth."

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