The British & Irish Lions

Tour to New Zealand 2017

1904 | Australia & New Zealand

Lions Rugby 1904 Australia & New Zealand1904 saw the British & Irish tourists play Tests in both Australia and New Zealand for the first time, establishing a tradition that would last almost three-quarters of a century, until the growing demands of such schedules forced them to focus on one nation alone.

They also encountered on-field controversy and the growing strength of New Zealand as the pre-eminent power of the trans-Tasman neighbours.

The touring party, still selected by invitation and therefore some way short of representing the very best of Home Unions talent, was led by David 'Darkie' Bedell-Sivright, the hard man of Scottish forward play and a veteran of the previous year's tour to South Africa.

In what would become a hallmark of Lions tourists in years to come, Bedell-Sivright's squad found themselves short on quality at forward but overflowing with it among the backs. Gwyn Nicholls was unavailable, but Wales still provided five of its most famous names behind the scrum in Percy Bush, Rhys Gabe, Willie Llewellyn, Teddy Morgan and Tommy Vile.

With Bush pulling the strings from outside-half, the tourists marched through Australia unbeaten, conceding just three points in as many games in the Test series itself, winning 17-0, 17-3 and 16-0.

When they reached New Zealand, though, they faced a challenge of an altogether higher order. The All Blacks had made a winning start to their Test history by beating Australia 22-3 in Sydney earlier in the year, and they added the British Isles' scalp when the two met in Wellington.

The tourists had scraped victories against Canterbury and Otago, but were outplayed at forward in the international, with the dominance of the New Zealand pack - based on a 2-3-2 formation that allowed a 'rover' to stand off the scrum among the backs - starving the visiting halves and three-quarters of possession.

The hosts won 9-3 and the Arthur 'Boxer' Harding penalty that put the tourists' level at half-time proved the last points they would score on tour. After the Test, they drew 0-0 with a Combined Taranaki, Ranganui and Manawatu side and lost 13-0 to Auckland before heading for home.

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