THE UKAFRL lion roared just loud enough to secure a third place finish in the Armed Forces Rugby League World Cup after a second defeat of New Zealand in as many days with a 36-18 win at Ringrose Park, Wentworthville, Sydney.

Head Coach Flt Lt Damian Clayton said: “I feel the squad have grown and learnt, they could have easily lost their way, but they didn’t. The heart of the lion is still strong and they showed that.

“We are a good team, a lesser one would have run out of steam having lost their first two matches. It could easily have been a white wash, but those lads dug deep and made sure they won. Back-to-back wins over New Zealand is good stuff, we were good in many areas on the pitch and for good periods, that’s credit to them.

“We got back to what we know and we have learnt and we dealt with two difficult games well. I know they have grown as a unit and as a team. It is easy to give up, they didn’t.”

Having sunk the Kiwis in the last group stage match 40-30 at Windsor Stadium, the UK side were halted in their stride early on after a bullying opening that ignored passing for bruising tackles, testing the referee early on.

Despite taking a 6-0 lead in the ninth minute when Kyran David punished sloppy UK play, with Nikolao Ioane converting, the men in black were forced back to kick a drop out underneath their posts. Then on 16 minutes Spr Kev Brown, who along with SAC Josh Scott in the middle drove the side relentlessly all day, put in a grubber kick which Scott touched down.

AB Ryan Matthews converted the extras for a belated birthday present.

Straight from the off Brown was again involved bursting into the NZ 40, before finding touch to force a scrum.

With the Kiwis panicking the UK side impressed their superiority, with Sgt Si Wray seeing a try disallowed after a good rubber kick through from SAC(T) Adam Flintham.

A Kiwi knock on was then punished by Cfn George Clarke who produced a great dummy from the scrum to score under the posts, with Matthews converting.

In the last five minutes of the half, with the Kiwis trying to run the non-stop clock down, the UK men struck again as Sgt Dave Hankinson sporting a heavily bandaged face following an earlier clash of heads, touched down for an unconverted try.

The Kiwis were the first to draw blood after the break through Robert Brocklehurst, with Cam Nicholas converting, but this time the tide had turned and the UK team were not for changing as Matthews ran in a grubber kick, which he converted and five minutes later Wray made it a try a game in the tournament, when he scored out wide to make it 26-12.

Further good pressure and interchanges saw the UK team in full flow on and off the pitch, and despite a Kiwi try following a silly penalty for holding down, as Logan Afoa ran in with Nicholas adding the extras, a moment of cheeky brilliance from the terrier like Brown, saw him ran in from acting half back to extend the Lions lead with Clarke getting a brace of tries on 74 minutes with a stunning twisting try on the line which Hankinson slotted over and third place was secured.