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The Lions Down Under: 1904

The first tour of the 20th century to Australia and New Zealand was unusual in that it came just a year after the previous Lions adventure.

The first tour of the 20th century to Australia and New Zealand was unusual in that it came just a year after the previous Lions adventure.

The Lions had travelled to South Africa in 1903, playing their 22nd and final game of that tour in mid-September. Just over nine months later and the Lions were back in action on the fields of Australia.

The tour may have been a joint venture to both sides of the Tasman but the vast majority of the action took place in Australia.

Of the 19 games played, only five were against New Zealand opposition.

And while those five games brought mixed results, the 14 matches played in Australia were a resounding success.

The Lions won every single one of their games Down Under, scoring 265 points and conceding just 39.

They won all bar one of their matches by 10 points or more and were comfortable victors in the three-match Test series.

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All three internationals in Australia were one-sided affairs, with the Lions winning 17-0, 17-3 and 16-0 for a combined score of 50 points to 3.

A little bit of history

In the year that the Lions set off again for Australia and New Zealand, Edward VII was a third of the way through his nine-year reign as King; Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States; Cary Grant, Glenn Miller and Salvador Dali were all born; the first main line electric train line in the UK opened; the ice cream cone was created by Charles E Menches; the first of the now famous New Year’s Eve celebrations at Times Square in New York took place; the Trans-Siberian Railway finally opened after 13 years of construction and the first rugby league international was played between England and an Other Nationalities side in Wigan.

The Lions arrived in Australia five years after their last visit; three years after Australia officially became a federation; two years after King Edward VII approved the design of the Australian flag and a year after Alfred Deakin became Australia’s second Prime Minister.

Did you know?

Many observers believe that the reason the Lions excelled in Australia but not in New Zealand in 1904 was the introduction of the ‘Rover system’ favoured by the New Zealanders.

This involved them packing down in a 2-3-2 formation, with a forward known as a ‘Rover’ never packing down and instead doing everything he could to prevent the Lions backline from having any time on the ball.

Wales would employ a similar tactic to beat the All Blacks when the New Zealanders toured Britain and Ireland a year later.

Star performer

The star of the tour was undoubtedly a Welsh half-back by the name of Percy Bush.

The Cardiff playmaker has been likened to the great Barry John and was instrumental in bringing the best out of a hugely-talented Lions backline.

Bush received rave reviews from the British and Australian press as the Lions showed the Australians a new and exciting style of attacking play.

The squad

Just one member of the squad that toured South Africa in 1903 was present again in Australia and New Zealand in 1904 and that was the tour captain D.R Bedell-Sivright.

The Cambridge University and Scotland skipper played in every one of the first 12 games in 1903 before injury prevented him from taking any further part in that tour.

Injury again brought his participation to a premature end in 1904 but not before he had played a central role in an unbeaten tour of Australia.

There were only four internationals among the 13 forwards, with writer and former Lion Clem Thomas describing the rest as ‘merely of club standard’.

But while the forwards lacked international experience, the backline was dominated by Welsh caps who are still held in the highest regard more than 100 years on.

The magical Bush was joined by the impressive Tommy Vile, Rhys Gabe, Teddy Morgan and Willie Llewellyn in the Test team. Those same players led Wales through their first golden era, a time when they won the International Championship five times in seven years.

Full back

CF Stanger-Leathes Northern


JL Fisher Yorkshire
RT Gabe Cardiff and Wales
WF Jowett Swansea and Wales
W Llewellyn Cardiff and Wales
PF McEvedy Guy’s Hospital
ET Morgan Guy’s Hospital and Wales
AB O’Brien Guy’s Hospital


PF Bush Cardiff
FC Hulme Birkenhead Park and England
TH Vile Newport


D.R Bedell-Sivright Cambridge University and Scotland (captain)
TS Bevan Swansea
SN Crowther Lennox
DD Dobson Oxford University and England
RW Edwards Malone and Ireland
AF Harding London Welsh and Wales
BF Massey Yorkshire
CD Patterson Malone
RJ Rogers Bath
SM Saunders Guy’s Hospital
JT Sharland Streatham
BI Swannell Northampton
DH Trail Guy’s Hospital

To view the full list of fixtures and results from the 1904 tour, simply click here

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