Classic Lions matches: No.5 – Johnson roars into the Lions fold at Wellington

When the going gets tough you can always rely on Martin Johnson - even on his debut for the British & Irish Lions he was instrumental. [more]

Classic Lions matches: No.5 – Johnson roars into the Lions fold at Wellington

When the going gets tough you can always rely on Martin Johnson – even on his debut for the British & Irish Lions he was instrumental.

Johnson was 23, the Lions were already 1-0 down against New Zealand and in desperate need of some inspiration after losing the opening Test in Christchurch 20-18.

Leading up to the second Test the Lions were surprisingly defeated 29-16 by a Hawke’s Bay side, but significantly Johnson had been drafted in after Wade Dooley flew home following his father’s death.

What followed in Wellington was, and what still remains, the Lions’ biggest victory over the All Blacks in their 125-year history – the 20-7 scoreline made up of a Rory Underwood try, four Gavin Hastings penalties and a drop goal from Rob Andrew.

But captain Hastings claims the influence of Johnson was the decisive factor in the victory.

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“He made a big difference,” says Hastings. “Johnson had only been in New Zealand for a week before that game, played in two out of the three Test matches and went on to captain the Lions in the next two tours.

“He’s a legend of the game. The cream rises to the top in Lions tours, it always does.”

Leading up to the first Test the squad had been decimated by injuries, though the side had notched up five out of six victories.

They were leading in Christchurch with ten minutes to go but Grant Fox slotted the winning penalty to strike the first blow.

That loss was particularly hard to swallow for Hastings, whose side went on to lose the third and final Test 30-13 in Auckland.

“I remember the disbelief on Dewi Morris’s face,” he added. “We were all so stunned – it was massively disappointing. If we had won that game we would have won the series.”

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