The second Test between the Lions and the Wallabies in 1966 looks destined to remain a record breaker for ever more.
A stunning 31-0 success in Brisbane stands as the Lions’ biggest-ever Test victory over any of the three southern hemisphere giants. And with the increased resources and playing experience at the disposal of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, any thoughts of a repeat would be beyond even the wildest of Lions’ expectations.
While the class of ’66 will never be remembered alongside the greats of ’71, ’74 and ’97 due to a poor return in New Zealand, the nature of their performance in the second of seven Test matches on tour has ensured their place in the history books.
The Lions were simply superb in their final fixture in Australia – or at least they were for the final 22 minutes. Ahead by just a single penalty goal at the interval, the Lions scored five unanswered tries in the closing stages to notch up what remains their highest Test score in more than 120 years of touring.
And while it is true to say that the Wallabies were not the same force that they have recently become, they were by no means pushovers. A series success over South Africa and victory against the All Blacks the previous year, together with wins over Wales and England just months after the Lions headed home, give credence to the view that this second-Test success was something special.
AUSTRALIA 0 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 31
Scorers: Lions: Tries – Jones 2, D Watkins, Bebb, Murphy; Cons – Wilson 5; Pen – Wilson; Drop goal – D Watkins
SETTING THE SCENE
The Lions set off for the second Test looking to go unbeaten in Australia for a third time in eight tours and for the first time since 1904 but they knew improvements would be needed after a disappointingly narrow victory in the opening rubber.
A convincing midweek win over Queensland had given the Lions added confidence after their first-Test fight back, with the five tries scored in that Tuesday fixture showing just how dangerous the tourists could be.
The fact that each of those scores had come from the backline may also have reminded the Lions that it was out wide where they could do the most damage – a lesson they seemed to have forgotten when they later landed in New Zealand.
That thrashing of the Sunshine State made it six wins and a draw from seven games in Australia, with the seventh set to be the most impressive of them all.
But while the end result would prove conclusive, the match itself was in doubt until late in the day. With no suitable rugby union ground available in the area, Lang Park was put forward as the only viable venue. It was an option that was surrounded by controversy as the ground belonged to the rugby league fraternity. By simply running out at the venue, the players on both sides would have been seen to have professionalised themselves and would therefore have faced a ban from rugby union. It was only with special dispensation from the International Rugby Board that the game was allowed to proceed without fear of punishment.
Despite the disappointing nature of the first-Test victory a week earlier, the Lions resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to the side for the second rubber.
Coach John Robbins, manager Des O’Brien and captain Mike Campbell-Lamerton kept faith with 14 of the side who were narrow winners in Sydney. And while the error-ridden performance first time around suggested alterations would be made for Brisbane, the manner in which the Lions overturned an 8-0 half-time deficit made it a little less surprising that more movement between the mid-week and Test XVs didn’t take place.
That meant there was still no place for Lions legends Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson, or for English utility back Colin McFadyean and Irish back rower Ronnie Lamont who would both play in all four Tests in New Zealand later that summer.
The only alteration came at the very top of the team sheet where Don Rutherford was dropped in favour of Stuart Wilson. Rutherford had kicked a penalty and conversion in Sydney but it would be his last involvement in Test-match rugby for the Lions as Wilson would go on to keep his place throughout all four internationals in New Zealand.
An Oxford University Blue, Wilson made his international debut for Scotland in their Championship-winning season of 1964 and went on to win 22 caps in a four-year period. Wilson’s attacking instincts and his all-round skills as a kicker gave him the edge over Rutherford in selection for the second Test and the then 23-year-old made an immediate impression, converting every one of the Lions’ five tries and acting as a masterful creative force in the record-breaking rout.
Just as it had done first time around, the side that took the field at Lang Park featured seven Championship-winning Welshmen and four Irishmen, with the one change meaning Scotland now contributed three players while England’s contingent was reduced to just one.
The solitary Englishman was Mike Weston, who was making his sixth straight Lions appearance having been an ever-present in South Africa in 1962. Unfortunately for the Durham City centre, it would also prove to be his last as Gibson was finally handed his chance in the first Test in New Zealand on July 16.
Like the Lions, the Wallabies made just one alteration to their own line up. But while it may have been a surprise not to see more Lions changes following the first Test, the nature of Australia’s performance in the opening rubber meant it was always likely to be case of as you were for the hosts.
That solitary change came in midfield, where John Brass was brought in for Beres Elwood. Brass was named at outside centre, leaving Rick Trivett to switch to move to the inside berth.
Halfback heroes Ken Catchpole and Phil Hawthorne were expected to be the biggest threat to the Lions, while Brass and Trivett, together with back-row trioJules Guerassimoff, David Shepherd and Greg Davis, would hope to again shut down the tourists’ much-talked about attacking threats.
For an in-depth look at the teams from the first Tests, please click here
Australia: P Ryan; G Ruebner, J Brass, R Trivett, A Cardy; P Hawthorne, K Catchpole; J Thornett (c), P Johnson, A Miller, R Heming, P Crittle, J Guerassimoff, D Shepherd, G Davis
British & Irish Lions: Stuart Wilson (London Scottish/Scotland); Stuart Watkins (Newport/Wales), Mike Weston (Durham City/England), D. Ken Jones (Cardiff/Wales), Dewi Bebb (Swansea/Wales); David Watkins (Newport/Wales), Roger Young (Queen’s University/Belfast); Ray McLoughlin (Gosforth/Ireland), Ken Kennedy (CIYMS/Ireland), Denzil Williams (Ebbw Vale/Wales), Brian Price (Newport/Wales), Mike Campbell Lamerton (c) (London Scottish/Scotland), Jim Telfer (Melrose/Scotland), Alun Pask (Abertillery/Wales), Noel Murphy (Cork Constitution/Ireland)
Referee: Dr IR Vanderfield (New South Wales)
The one-sided nature of the result fails to tell the full story of a game that proved to be another tale of two halves. Just as the first Test had been characterised by an unimpressive Lions showing in the opening 40 minutes and a much-improved effort in the second, this one witnessed an even bigger switch in standards.
Looking to begin where they left off in the latter stages of the opening international, the Lions didn’t have things all their own way against a Wallaby outfit determined to bounce back from their narrow reverse last time out.
Test debutant Wilson kicked the Lions into a first-minute lead but it proved to be a false dawn as far as further scoring was concerned. The remaining 39 minutes of the half remained scoreless, leaving the match and the series in the balance at the break.
David Watkins ensured the Lions started the second half in the same manner as the first as he slotted a drop goal shortly after the restart but again the Lions failed to kick on immediately. Some 18 minutes of the second period went by without any addition to the scoring and few could have guessed what would transpire across the final quarter.
Suddenly, the Lions turned on the style, as if winning the series wasn’t enough and a lasting impression had to be made. An incredible 25 points in 22 minutes provided the perfect finish to the Australian leg of the tour.
Centre Jones was the first to cross as the game finally celebrated a try after 58 minutes, with Murphy, Bebb and David Watkins all getting in on the act. Jones then claimed the final score, with Wilson kicking the fifth of his five conversions to take the Lions above 30 Test points for the first and only time in their history.
The Lions in Brisbane:
The Lions have played in Brisbane on 25 occasions, losing just once.
That single defeat came in 1971 when the Lions lost to Queensland in the first of just two games in Australia prior to their tour of New Zealand – a tour that also featured a first and only series win against the All Blacks.
Of the 25 matches, seven have been Tests, with the Lions winning each and every one. The 31-0 hammering of the Wallabies in 1966 remains the pinnacle of the Lions’ visits to the city in scoring terms but it has been matched in significance on two other occasions.
As well as hosting the ‘Battle of Ballymore’ when the Lions stood firm to level the series in 1989, Brisbane was home to one of the most famous Lions victories in history – the stunning 29-13 win over the Wallabies in 2001.
Brisbane looks set to host at least one fixture on the Lions’ next visit to Australia in 2013, with a clash with the Reds likely to be followed by one of the three scheduled Tests.
P 25 W 24 L 1
1888: Queensland 6 Lions 13
Queensland Juniors 3 Lions 11
Queensland 0 Lions 7
1899: Queensland 3 Lions 11
Australia 0 Lions 11
1904: Queensland 5 Lions 24
Brisbane 3 Lions 17
Queensland 7 Lions 18
Australia 3 Lions 17
1908: Queensland 3 Anglo-Welsh 20
Queensland 8 Anglo-Welsh 11
Brisbane 3 Anglo-Welsh 26
1930: Queensland 16 Lions 26
Australian XV 14 Lions 29
1950: Australia 6 Lions 19
1959: Queensland 11 Lions 39
Australia 6 Lions 17
1966: Queensland 3 Lions 26
Australia 0 Lions 31
1971: Queensland 15 Lions 11
1989: Queensland 15 Lions 19
Australia 12 Lions 19
Anzac XV 15 Lions 19
2001:Queensland 8 Lions 42
Australia 13 Lions 29