Mid-week history

It may seem a strange choice for a greatest match considering the overall disappointment of the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand, but a narrow victory over Auckland five years ago helped the Lions achieve a memorable milestone. [more]

Mid-week history

It may seem a strange choice for a greatest match considering the overall disappointment of the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand, but a narrow victory over Auckland five years ago helped the Lions achieve a memorable milestone.

Despite losing the Test series 3-0 to an awesome All Blacks side, the Lions left New Zealand with at least one notable achievement to their name.

For just the third time in their history, the mid-week side had gone a full tour with a 100-percent record in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

While the Test team may have had their difficulties and the Saturday side may also have fallen to defeat at the hands of the New Zealand Maori, the mid-week squad won all five of their tour fixtures.

The 17-13 victory over Auckland in the penultimate match of the tour had been preceded by wins over Taranaki, Wellington, Southland and Manawatu as Ian McGeechan, Gareth Jenkins, Mike Ford and Craig White did their bit to ensure the Lions could hold their heads high.

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The 100-percent record equalled that of the famous 1971 squad, who won all 10 of their mid-week fixtures in New Zealand but lost their mid-week opener to Queensland on the Australian leg of their tour, and the 1959 side, who are regarded by many Kiwis as the finest side to have toured the country.

"No

The fifth mid-week victory in a row was a real battle for the Lions

AUCKLAND 13 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 17

Half-time: 3-14 Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Attendance: 47,500

Scorers: Auckland: Tries – Nacewa; Con – Ward; Pens – Ward 2; Lions: Try – Williams; Con – Hodgson; Pens – O'Gara 3

SETTING THE SCENE

With the Test series against the All Blacks already lost following heavy defeats in the first two rubbers, the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand was in danger of petering out.

Step forward the 'Mid-week Massive,' as they became affectionately known. The Tuesday and Wednesday-night boys may not have been able to alter the outcome on three successive Saturday's but they were at least able to ensure one aspect of the tour finished on a high.

Having watched the Test side fall to a 21-3 defeat in Christchurch and a 48-18 hammering in Wellington just three days earlier, the mid-week side could easily have followed suit against one of the stronger provincial teams.

Instead, they bucked the trend. The margin of victory may not have been much but it meant a great deal to all involved.

A 17-13 victory gave thousands of Lions supporters something to smile about and helped put the Test series defeat to the back of their minds, albeit for just a few days.

"No

The Lions showed great spirit to defeat Auckland at Eden Park

THE TEAMS

Of the side that were on the wrong end of a 30-point beating by the All Blacks at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday, July 2, four players featured against Auckland three days later.

Having played 20 minutes in the second Test, Leicester and England prop Graham Rowntree completed a further 80 in the penultimate match of what would be his second and final Lions tour as a player.

England scrum-half Matt Dawson and Wales openside Martyn Williams both started having been unused replacements in Wellington, while Martin Corry made substitute appearances in both games.

Scotland hooker Gordon Bulloch captained the side, having also led the Lions against Otago and Manawatu, with Ireland's John Hayes completing an experienced front row.

Simon Shaw joined fellow 1997 Lions tourist Rowntree in the side, with World Cup winner Ben Kay named alongside him at lock.

"No

England lock Simon Shaw toured with the Lions in 1997 and 2005

Kay was one of five players to have been selected for the first Test in Christchurch a week-and-a-half earlier, with Will Greenwood, Dawson, Corry and Rowntree the others.

Late tour call ups Jason White and Brent Cockbain made their first and second appearances in Lions colours respectively, with the latter doing so from the replacements bench after 35 minutes of play.

Wales' Grand Slam winning skipper Michael Owen packed down at No8, while the backline featured four Englishmen and three Irishmen. Dawson was joined at halfback by countryman Charlie Hodgson, with Mark Cueto and Greenwood starting on the right wing and at outside centre.

Geordan Murphy, Denis Hickie and Gordon D'Arcy were named at full back, left wing and inside centre, while a further two Irish replacements made appearances, with Ronan O'Gara taking over from Hodgson after just 20 minutes and Shane Horgan replacing Greenwood eight minutes after half time.

As for Auckland, the matchday 22 named by one of the powerhouse provinces of New Zealand rugby presented the Lions midweek side with their biggest challenge to date.

Not only did the Aucklanders name a number of All Blacks in their squad, they were proudly defending the best record of any New Zealand provincial side against the tourists. The reverence in which some six wins and a draw have been held since 1888, when they became just the second team to beat the Lions, meant Auckland went into the match determined to uphold the achievements of their predecessors.

Steve Divine, Brad Mika and Sam Tuitupou all had senior New Zealand caps to their name, while flying All Black wing Joe Rokocoko had been expected to feature in the Test series against the Lions.

Since the Lions returned home, a further three Auckland players have gone on to be regular members of All Black matchday squads, with the promotion of John Afoa, Jerome Kaino and Angus MacDonald another indication of the challenge that the Lions faced in New Zealand's northernmost city.

"No

Welshman Michael Owen started at No8 for the 'Mid-week Massive'

Auckland: Brent Ward; Isa Nacewa, Ben Atiga, Sam Tuitupou, Joe Rokocoko; Tasesa Lavea; Steve Divine; Saimone Taumoepeau, Semisi Telefon, John Afoa, Brad Mika, Bryce Williams, Justin Collins (captain), Daniel Braid, Angus MacDonald

Replacements: Chris Heard, John Fonokalati, Kurtis Haiu, Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toe'ava, Gavin Williams

Unused: Tanela Moa

British & Irish Lions: Geordan Murphy (Leicester/Ireland); Mark Cueto (Sale/England), Will Greenwood (Harlequins/England), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster/Ireland), Denis Hickie (Leinster/Ireland); Charlie Hodgson (Sale/England), Matt Dawson (London Wasps/England); Graham Rowntree (Leicester/England), Gordon Bulloch (Glasgow/Scotland, captain), John Hayes (Munster/Ireland), Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), Ben Kay(Leicester/England), Jason White (Sale/England), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Michael Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales)
Replacements: Matt Stevens, Brent Cockbain, Martin Corry, Ronan O'Gara, Shane Horgan

Unused: Andy Titterell, Chris Cusiter

Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)

THE MATCH

A healthy half-time lead was the key aspect in the Lions' final tour victory of 2005.

The tourists dominated the opening 40 minutes and were unfortunate to only be 11 points ahead at 14-3 by the time the half-time whistle blew.

The fact that the Lions began so positively was another sign of the character and commitment within a much-maligned camp.

Rather than dwell on the heavy second Test defeat and the loss of the Test series, the Lions took the game to Auckland from the outset.

With the home side looking to run the ball from deep, the Lions had plenty of opportunities to counter attack, and they did so with a real enthusiasm.

Unfortunately for the Lions supporters, a tour trait of failing to finish off try-scoring opportunities came to the fore as the Lions were unable to capitalise fully on Auckland mistakes.

With the Lions ahead by just three points approaching half-time, a Martyn Williams try finally provided some reward for a gutsy first-half performance.

The Welsh flanker finished off a fine move that had begun with a superb jinking run from England wing Cueto, a player who had only been named in the tour party after Iain Balshaw withdrew through injury prior to departure for New Zealand.

"No

Mark Cueto's weaving run set up the Lions' only try of the match

O'Gara added the extras having replaced Hodgson after 21 minutes as the Lions moved two scores clear at the break.

It was a gap they would be very grateful for as Auckland dominated the second-half scoreboard.

A penalty from full back Brent Ward and a converted try from stand-off Isa Nacewa began to fray the nerves of the Lions faithful as Auckland started to suggest they might bring an end to the Lions' proud mid-week record.

Such a scenario looked even more likely with 11 minutes to go when Ward lined up another shot at goal. The Lions were saved by the woodwork, however, with Ward's effort striking the post and rebounding to safety.

The reprieve was just what the Lions needed as they scored a further three points of their own with 75 minutes played.

O'Gara's third penalty left the hosts requiring a try to win the match and, although Auckland threw everything at the Lions, Gordon Bulloch and his men stood firm with some hugely committed defending.

"No

Brent Cockbain made his second Lions appearance as a first-half replacement

WHAT THEY SAID

Gordon Bulloch (Lions hooker and skipper against Auckland)

"To finish with a victory which made us unbeaten on the tour was some achievement.

"The Auckland game was by far our toughest on the trip, as they had a side packed with Super 12 players, and it says a lot for our spirit that we managed another win.

"I was lucky enough to captain the side three times – against Otago, Manawatu and Auckland – and it was great to come away from the tour saying I had captained the Lions in three victories.

"For many players, it was hard being selected for the midweek side time and time again. Many of these guys are used to being first picks for their clubs, or in some cases their countries, and I think it says a lot for them that we didn't have any cases of guys 'going off tour'.

"It proved what great coaches we had in Ian McGeechan, Gareth Jenkins, Mike Ford and Craig White. They created a side from nothing and brought a real attitude to it. They drilled into us the attitude that, once you take the field in that famous jersey, you need to show it the respect it deserves and perform to your very best, whether you're playing a Test match or a mid-week game."

Ian McGeechan (2005 Lions mid-week coach and 2009 head coach)

"It was a real team performance – everybody gave everything.

"It was a team full of character and intelligence. They dug in against an Auckland side full of outstanding individual runners.

"It would have been easy to come off tour or think it didn't matter, but that performance shows how much it means to everyone on this tour.

"I'm very, very proud of that performance."

Matt Dawson (Lions scrum-half)

"It was fantastic for the 'Midweek Massive' to finish the tour unbeaten. Sitting in the changing room afterwards, the boys were acknowledging it was a big win.

"We had focused really hard on this game since selection at the weekend. This was our Test match.

"A great team spirit had built up within the whole Lions squad and, as we saw with the celebrations in the changing room after the game, the whole tour party was chuffed to bits that we went undefeated.

"The focus of a Lions tour has got to be success in the Tests. But to have won every midweek game and to have done that in New Zealand, where rugby is a religion and every game is so intense, is an immense achievement that the coaching staff and all the players are rightly proud of."

Pat Lam (Auckland coach)

"It was a good game and the atmosphere was unbelievable – it was a real nailbiter and we certainly had a chance to take it.

"It was a big experience for my guys to play in that atmosphere. We were slow to get going but we really came back in the second half and took it to them."

THE LIONS IN AUCKLAND:

The Lions have appeared in a total of 27 fixtures in New Zealand's biggest city, enjoying mixed fortunes against provincial, representative and international opposition. The 1971 tour saw the Lions record two victories and a draw, while the 1959 squad can boast the best record in the city having won all three of their matches against Auckland, the New Zealand Maori and the All Blacks.

P 27 W 14 L 11 D 2

1888: Auckland 3 Lions 6
Auckland 4 Lions 0
Auckland 0 Lions 3
Auckland 1 Lions 1

1904: Auckland 13 Lions 0

1908: Auckland 11 Lions 0

1930: Auckland 19 Lions 6

1950: Auckland 0 Lions 42

1959: Auckland 10 Lions 15
NZ Maori 6 Lions 12
New Zealand 6 Lions 9

1966: Auckland 6 Lions 12
NZ Maori 14 Lions 16
New Zealand 24 Lions 11

1971: NZ Maori 12 Lions 23
Auckland 12 Lions 19
New Zealand 14 Lions 14

1977: NZ Maori 19 Lions 22
Auckland 15 Lions 34
New Zealand 10 Lions 9
1983: Auckland 13 Lions 12
New Zealand 38 Lions 6

1993: North Harbour 13 Lions 29
Auckland 23 Lions 18
New Zealand 30 Lions 13

2005: Auckland 13 Lions 17
New Zealand 38 Lions 19

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