Getting closer in our countdown to the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, it is only fitting that Last Word On Rugby offer rugby fans a ‘Lions flashback’ or two. Continuing today, follow us as we recall ten of the best clashes from historic tours.
#9: From 1993, the second test of the three test series on Saturday June 26. Played on Athletic Park, Wellington, it was a monumental tussel played out on a bright afternoon. It was the focal point of all rugby fans in New Zealand, as well as a high interest from the United Kingdom.
They had collected together a talented group who epitomized their traditional power, but also the strengths of the game in the Northern Hemisphere. The group would play 13 matches and was coached by highly rated former Scottish International, Ian McGeechan. He was an intelligent director, who had personal experience of playing for the Lions himself. That awareness of what to draw from his players (on this day) was crucial.
Powerful Touring Lions Looked to Recover Pride
The first test had been lost 20-18, so there was an element of pride involved. That primal instinct was evident in the eyes of the Lions players, who bristled with energy and confrontation. The hosts might have had all the attention from the big Wellington team, but they were not as focused as their guests.
With the calls of the touring crowd “Lions, Lions, Lions” ringing around the ground, the 40,000 strong in attendance were prepared for battle. And while the game began with a fortunate to try for Eroni Clark, that would surprisingly be all the points the home team could accumulate.
Lions Bring Passion and Fire to the Series
With increased possession, the tempo of the match fell into the British and Irish Lions hands. That is, into lock Martin Bayfield giant hands, as he dominated the lineouts, The setpiece was a strength of their game, so Rob Andrew played the sidelines and it gave them great territorial advantage.
With captain Gavin Hastings’ boot once again collecting points, his shots at goal plus one Rob Andrew drop-goal, the guests were well executed–the extra practice and attention of the touring UK press after a 23-18 loss to Auckland will that affect on the game plan; but with a positive outcome.
The Lions looked to repel all the All Blacks offense, and in a telling blow, Rory Underwood scored from an overturned ball. His try midway through the second half meant the hosts had to earn two tries to gain parity. Even with the likes of Grant Fox, Zinzan Brooke and John Kirwan, they were unable to close the gap to give the Lions a 20-7 win.
It was tourists’ biggest-ever win against the All Blacks, and was a massive improvement on the first test. The joyful after-match scenes were a highlight of the series (see below image).
The Perfect Set-up for Final Test
It couldn’t have been set-up any better, with the tour outcome now balanced on the result the Eden Park test. The self-analysis by the Laurie Mains coached All Blacks paid off, with a series-clinching 30-13 win.
It was one of the more evenly matched Lions tours to New Zealand. The matches had high drama, supreme skills and unparalleled media attention. It was leading toward the professional era and saw the All Blacks hold off the might of the home nations. The aura of the British and Irish Lions grew further, after this well received tour.