The British & Irish Lions

Tour to New Zealand 2017

2001 | Australia

Lions Team 2001 AustraliaThe Lions broke with tradition in 2001 by appointing their first coach from outside the British Isles in New Zealander Graham Henry, then in charge of Wales. Captain Martin Johnson, meanwhile, became the only man to lead the tourists twice.

Sadly, the party also made one other, unwanted piece of history by becoming the first Lions to lose a series to Australia.
Managed by Donal Lenihan, leader of the midweek team of 1989, the tour generated excitement like no other, with more than 20,000 British & Irish fans heading south in support.

Johnson led a strong pack featuring the likes of Keith Wood, Neil Back, Richard Hill and Scott Quinnell, while England outside half Jonny Wilkinson supplied an all-Ireland midfield of rising star Brian O'Driscoll and surprise package Rob Henderson, and Anglo-Welsh wings in Jason Robinson and Dafydd James.

The tour started impressively - the opening game win over Western Australia still stands as a Lions record at 116-10 - but by the time the first Test came round the Lions looked on the verge of cracking as a defeat by Australia A was followed by revelations of discontent in the camp, fuelled by an apparent distinction already having been drawn between the Test and midweek sides.

It took the Lions just two minutes of the first Test to answer the questions about their well-being, as Robinson scored in the corner. Further tries from James, Quinnell and O'Driscoll - the last a spectacular solo effort from 50 metres out - cleared the storm clouds with a 29-13 win.

O'Driscoll's try came early in the second half and effectively killed off the contest. The second Test would also be decided in its third quarter, but this time it was the Wallabies who made the decisive move.

The hosts trailed 11-6 at half-time but emerged to score 15 points in 10 minutes - aided, admittedly, by Lions mistakes - and set themselves up for a 35-14 win.

The decider could hardly have been closer as the two teams kept pace to stand level at 23-23 with 12 minutes to play, Robinson and Wilkinson having scored tries for the tourists.
Matt Burke then kicked two penalties to give Australia a 29-23 advantage, but the Lions engineered one last chance for the try and conversion they needed to win with a lineout in the Wallabies' 22.

Wood threw to Johnson but Australia lock Justin Harrison pulled off the steal of the series to take possession and make his side's victory safe. For all their efforts, the Lions had come up a crucial few metres short.
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