125 years of rivalry – Waratahs and the Lions

Just imagine the scene. You've travelled around the world to play rugby and just spent a month in New Zealand. You arrive in Sydney and find yourself playing in front of 18,000 curious fans in your very first outing. [more]

125 years of rivalry – Waratahs and the Lions

Just imagine the scene. You’ve travelled around the world to play rugby and just spent a month in New Zealand. You arrive in Sydney and find yourself playing in front of 18,000 curious fans in your very first outing.

That’s what happened to the pioneering British & Irish Lions when they played New South Wales for the first time on Saturday, 2 June, 1888. It was one of the biggest gates that rugby had seen anywhere in the world up to that point and they saw the Lions beat the home side 18-2 by scoring six tries.

The venue for the first of 20 matches to date between New South Wales and the Lions was the Association Cricket Ground, which later was renamed the Sydney Cricket Ground. It lies a few drop kicks away from the venue for the 21st encounter on the 125th anniversary tour and will act as another link to the past when Sam Warburton leads out his team at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday.

That first game – entrance cost one shilling to get into the ground and two shillings and sixpence extra to sit in the stand – was attended by the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Carrington, and this was the verdict from the local media:

“The arrival of a British representative football team, and their appearance to do battle with a New South Wales team, brought public interest in football at once up to the requisite fever heat, which almost approached that which the fever of a champion sculling or running or boxing match, or a cricket encounter with Victoria, produces. The Association Ground on Saturday must have been like the ground on which in London some three months or so ago over 20,000 people crowded to see the final match for the Association Cup. And though, as a spectator remarked on Saturday, Britain simply ran over New South Wales at football, it may be safely asserted that while the British team remains and plays among us football will be popular, and when it goes it only needs New South Wales to do as some great countries of old – namely, to learn from defeat how to gain victory. Then football will remain popular even after the British team shall have left us.”

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The Lions played three games against New South Wales on their 15 match trek around Australia, winning all three; they played seven games in Sydney, five of them at the Association Cricket Ground, and drew two of them; they remained unbeaten in Australia, the target that tour manager Andy Irvine and his tour captain, Warburton, have set the 2013 Lions.

The teams in that historic first game 125 years ago this month were:

New South Wales 2 British & Irish Lions 18
HT: 0-11 Att: 18,000
New South Wales: H Braddon; G Wade, J Moulton, H Bayliss, E Cameron; P Colquhoun, C Tange [capt]; J Shaw, H Lee, L Neill, B Belbridge, A Hale, L Wade, E Rice, J Gee
Scorers: Try – A Hale

British & Irish Lions: A Paul; T Haslam, A Stoddart, W Burnet, W Bumby; J Anderton, R Seddon [capt]; C Mathers, H Eagles, A Penketh, R Burnet, T Kent, A Stuart, S Williams, W Thomas
Scorers: Tries: W Bumby 2, A Stoddart, R Seddon, T Haslam, H Eagles; Cons: A Paul, J Anderton

Referee: RW Thallon (Australia)

Coming more up to date, the Lions were big winners in Sydney on their last visit in 2001, overpowering the Waratahs 41-24 in a game of nine tries. They haven’t lost to New South Wales since 1959. The Lions' overall record against the NSW Waratahs is: P20 W15 D1 L4. There were 11 wins in a row on the tours of 1888, 1899, 1904 and 1908 until New South Wales triumphed 6-3 on 22 August, 1908.

The other home wins in the fixture came in 1930, 28-3, in 1950, 17-12, and in 1959, 18-14. There was a 6-6 draw in 1966 and no other Australian team has beaten the Lions as many times.

In fact, the Waratahs are only one win behind the Australian national team in victories over the Lions in exactly the same number of matches.

NSW Waratahs v British & Irish Lions

1888
NSW 2, Lions 18
NSW 6, Lions 18
NSW 2, Lions 16

1899
NSW 3, Lions 4
NSW 5, Lions 11

1904
NSW 0, Lions 27
NSW 6, Lions 29
NSW 0, Lions 5

1908
NSW 0, Lions 3
NSW 0, Lions 8
NSW 6, Lions 3

1930
NSW 10, Lions 29
NSW 28, Lions 3

1950
NSW 6, Lions 22
NSW 17, Lions 12

1959
NSW 18, Lions 14

1966
NSW 6, Lions 6

1971
NSW 12, Lions 14

1989
NSW 21, Lions 23

2001
NSW 24, Lions 41

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