1950 | New Zealand & Australia

The British

& Irish Lions

Tour to New Zealand 2017

1950 | New Zealand & Australia

Lions Team 1950 New Zealand & AustraliaIf a team can have a golden era without actually winning a major Test series, then for the Lions, the 1950s was it. The side that travelled to New Zealand in the first year of that decade may have lost the internationals 3-0, managing only a single draw, but they established the patterns of exhilarating back play and open rugby in general that became the Lions' hallmark and the source of much of the affection in which they are still held across the world.

The Lions arrived with a new kit - red jerseys having replaced the pre-war navy blue to avoid the colour clash that forced New Zealand to play in white in 1930 - and introduced some new stars to the antipodean game.

Outside half Jack Kyle and wing Ken Jones were named among the New Zealand Rugby Almanac's five 'Players of the Year' while the Lions also had a princely pair of centres in Welsh duo Jack Matthews and Bleddyn Williams. Welsh prodigy Lewis Jones became the first Lion to fly when he was called up as a replacement and he sparked one of the greatest tries ever scored by the Lions in the final Test in New Zealand.

That galaxy of talent had their opponents' measure with the ball in hand, but the strength of New Zealand rugby still lay in the pack and the visitors never really dealt with the fierce rucking style of the hosts.

The Lions forwards, led by tour captain and Ireland hooker Karl Mullen, hit back in the first Test to lead 9-3 in the dying minutes, only for a try from All Blacks captain Ron Elvidge to salvage a draw for the home side. The second Test was lost 8-0, with all the scoring coming in the first half and the Lions hampered by the loss of loose forward Bill McKay with a broken nose and concussion.

In the third, it was the New Zealanders' turn to face adversity as they lost two players to injury. However, Elvidge defied a dislocated shoulder to return to the field and score the decisive try in a 6-3 victory. Another narrow defeat, this time by 11-8, rounded off the series, although the Lions cemented their reputation with a spectacular length-of-the-field try scored by Ken Jones.

In Australia, they further enhanced their reputation by winning the first Test 19-6 and then scoring five tries in a 24-3 success in the second to take the series 2-0.