The Lions Down Under: 1908

The 1908 Lions tour was another joint adventure to Australia and New Zealand. [more]

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The 1908 Lions tour was another joint adventure to Australia and New Zealand.

But whereas the 1904 tourists had played the majority of their matches in Australia, this time it was New Zealand opposition that dominated the fixture list.

Of the 26 games, just nine were played in Australia, just like four years earlier, it was this part of the tour that would prove the more successful.

While the 1908 Lions couldn’t match their predecessors’ unbeaten run Down Under, they did come out on top in all bar two of their Australian fixtures, although none of those games were Test matches.

Western Districts and New South Wales both got the better of the tourists by narrow margins but the trip to Australia was still a definite success.

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The nine games their included a 26-3 hammering of Brisbane in the final match of the tour and a record-breaking 42-0 win over Newcastle in mid-August.

That extent of that rout in Newcastle is somewhat unclear, with some records suggesting that the final score was actually either 32 or 30-0, but the result was impressive regardless.

If we take the 42-0 scoreline to be the most accurate, then that result was the biggest in Lions history. No other Lions side had scored that many points in a single match, nor had any one come close to that big a winning margin in the five previous tours.

The tourists themselves are often referred to as the Anglo-Welsh rather than the Lions as the squad was made up of players solely from England and Wales.

There were no Irishmen or Scots in the party and the side wore red jerseys with white hoops to combine the England and Wales colours.

This would be the first and last Anglo-Welsh tour and was generally seen as an unsuccessful experiment.

A little bit of history

In the year that the Lions headed back Down Under, Edward VII had less than two years left of his nine-year reign as King; Theodore Roosevelt was entering his final year as US President; Joan Crawford, Bette Davies and Oskar Schindler took their first breaths; Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire; the first-ever beauty contest was held in Folkestone, Kent; Mother’s Day was celebrated for the first time; the Model-T Ford auto car was built in Detroit and Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

The Lions arrived in Australia two years after Australia took control of south-eastern New Guinea; a year after Canberra was chosen as the national capital; three years before the founding of the Royal Australian Navy and four years before Australia sent women to the Olympics for the first time.

Did you know?

On the New Zealand leg of their tour, the Anglo-Welsh Lions lost full back EJ Jackett for a lengthy spell of the game against Wellington and were politely offered the use of a substitute by the opposition.

The use of replacements for serious injuries was permitted in the southern hemisphere but was still outlawed and severely frowned upon by the British-dominated International Board.

The tourists refused the offer on the grounds that it transgressed the laws of the game.

The Lions went on to lose that match 19-13 but the management felt that they had maintained the true spirit of the sport.

Star performer

It’s hard to pick out a man-of-the-tour on an adventure when none of the Anglo-Welsh Lions really stood out but RA Gibbs deserves a mention for his try-scoring feats in Australia.

The Cardiff and Wales three-quarter scored an incredible eight tries in six games Down Under.

That record becomes even more impressive when you consider that he didn’t feature in the huge wins over Newcastle and Brisbane.

The squad

The 1908 Lions were severely lacking in international experience and star names.

Only 11 of the 28-man squad had played international rugby prior to the tour, with that number being split six-five in favour of the backs.

Welsh international Arthur ‘Boxer’ Harding was the tour captain having been on the previous Lions tour – again to Australia and New Zealand – four years earlier.

Whereas the 1904 tourists had been blessed with an exceptionally talented backline that ran rings round the Australians, the class of 1908 were a far more ordinary side. Only a few of the squad really enhanced their reputations on tour, particularly on the New Zealand leg which saw two heavy defeats and a draw in the three-match Test series.

Five of the squad were Old Boys of Welsh school Christ’s College Brecon.

Full backs

JCM Dyke Coventry and Wales
EJ Jackett Falmouth and England

Three-quarters

FE Chapman Hartlepool Rovers
RA Gibbs Cardiff and Wales
RB Griffiths Newport
JP ‘Ponty’ Jones Pontypool and Wales
JP ‘Tuan’ Jones Guy’s Hospital
PF McEvedy Guy’s Hospital
HH Vassall Oxford University and England
JL Williams Cardiff and Wales

Half-backs

J Davey Redruth and England
H Laxon Cambridge University
WL Morgan London Welsh
GL Williams Liverpool

Forwards

HA Archer Guy’s Hospital
R Dibble Bridgewater Albion and England
PJ Down Bristol
RK Green Neath
AF Harding London Welsh and Wales (captain)
GR Hind Guy’s Hospital
ES Jackson Leicester
GV Kyrke Marlborough Nomads
E Morgan Swansea
WL Oldham Coventry and England
JAS Ritson Northern
TW Smith Leicester
LS Thomson Penarth
JF Williams London Welsh and Wales

To view the full list of fixtures and results from the 1908 tour, simply click here

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