The Lions Down Under: 1959

The Lions tour to Australasia in 1959 was again heavily weighted in favour of fixtures in New Zealand. [more]

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The Lions tour to Australasia in 1959 was again heavily weighted in favour of fixtures in New Zealand.

Just as in all previous joint tours, Australia played the minor party, hosting just six of the 31 games played by the Lions.

Those six matches all took place at the beginning of the tour, with the Lions winning five and losing one.

The four non-Test matches brought wins over Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales Country by scores of 53-18, 39-11 and 27-14 but the Lions were beaten 18-14 by New South Wales in just their second game of the tour.

The two-Test series against the Wallabies was won easily by the Lions thanks to a 17-6 triumph in Brisbane and a 24-3 victory in Sydney in the last game before departure for New Zealand.

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The Lions went on to play a further 25 games in New Zealand, winning 20 and losing five. History shows that the tourists impressed against provincial opposition and the All Blacks but they were beaten 3-1 in the Test series thanks to fine New Zealand kicking and a lack of firepower up front.

The tourists outscored the Kiwis four tries to nil in the first Test but lost out to six Don Clarke penalties.

The Lions played two more games in Canada before heading home, taking their total number of fixtures to 33 in close to four months.

A little bit of history

In the year that the Lions returned to Australia for the second time in a decade, Queen Elizabeth II was seven years into her reign; Dwight Eisenhower was three-quarters of the way through his time as American President; Fidel Castro names himself Cuba’s leader; Val Kilmer, Vic Reeves and Morrissey were born but Frank Lloyd Wright and Buddy Holly both passed away; Britain starts using post codes; the first Barbie was sold; Alaska became the 49th US state; Elvis made his first entry on the UK charts with Heartbreak Hotel and the very first section of UK motorway was opened.

The Lions arrived in Australia three years after Melbourne hosted the Olympics; the same year that Darwin was granted city status, formal construction on the Sydney Opera house began and Donald Bradman retired; and a year before Australia’s worst aircraft disaster.

Did you know?

The 1959 Lions scored more points than any other Lions squad in history. Only the heroes of 1974 came close to matching their tally of 842.

Star performer

Tony O’Reilly secured his place in Lions folklore as he continued his remarkable try-scoring exploits of four years earlier.

Having crossed the whitewash 16 times in 15 games in South Africa in 1955, the Irish sensation scored a further 21 tries in 21 games in 1959.

O’Reilly’s total of 37 tries across two tours remains a Lions record, with no one since coming remotely close to matching his achievement.

The squad

The Lions called up three replacements during their time on tour, all of them backs.

Sale three-quarter WM Patterson joined half-backs JP Horrocks-Taylor and AA Mulligan as a late recruit, with Patterson becoming the only uncapped member of the squad.

Ireland’s Ronnie Dawson led the side from hooker, while England’s Peter Jackson added 19 tries to O’Reilly’s 21.

Ireland prop Syd Millar would go on to manage the Invincibles in their unbeaten 1974 tour to South Africa, O’Reilly would become a billionaire businessman and John Young would hold the position of secretary of the London Stock Exchange.

Full backs

TJ Davies Llanelli and Wales
KJF Scotland Cambridge University and Scotland


NH Brophy University College Dublin and Ireland
J Butterfield Northampton and England
D Hewitt Queen’s University Belfast and Ireland
PB Jackson Coventry and England
AJF O’Reilly Old Belvedere and Ireland
WM Patterson Sale
MJ Price Pontypool and Wales
MC Thomas
Newport and Wales
JRC Young Harlequins and England


GH Waddell Cambridge University and Scotland


S Coughtrie Edinburgh Academicals and Scotland
MAF English Bohemians and Ireland
JP Horrocks-Taylor Leicester and England
REG Jeeps Northampton and England
AA Mulligan Wanderers and Ireland
ABW Risman Manchester and England


A Ashcroft Waterloo and England
AR Dawson Wanderers and Ireland (captain)
WR Evans Cardiff and Wales
J Faull Swansea and Wales
HF McLeod Hawick and Scotland
RWD Marques Harlequins and England
BV Meredith Newport and Wales
S Millar Ballymena and Ireland
HJ Morgan Abertillery and Wales
WA Mulcahy University College Dublin and Ireland
NAA Murphy Cork Constitution and Ireland
TR Prosser Pontypool and Wales
GK Smith Kelso and Scotland
RH Williams Llanelli and Wales
BGM Wood Garryowen and Ireland

To view the full list of fixtures and results from the 1959 tour, simply click here

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