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On This Day: The 1971 Lions win a classic Test in Wellington

On This Day: The 1971 Lions win a classic Test in Wellington

The 1971 British & Irish Lions took their place in the history books by beating New Zealand in a series for the very first time, and for winger David Duckham the victorious third Test was the defining match of the Tour.

“The All Blacks didn’t know what hit them, for me that was the turning point of the whole series."

The 1971 British & Irish Lions took their place in the history books by beating New Zealand in a series for the very first time, and for winger David Duckham the victorious third Test was the defining match of the Tour.

Heading into the match in Wellington, the Lions were full of confidence despite the fact they had lost the second Test.

After winning the opener in Dunedin, the Lions were pegged back as the series was levelled, but with three weeks to prepare for their next clash, a chance to plan for history was tantalisingly on the minds of all involved.

The Lions had not previously won a series in New Zealand, but with the potential for something special on the horizon, victory in the third Test – securing a minimum of a drawn series in the process – was eyed up as a possible do-or-die encounter.

And as wing Duckham reflects, the fallback of the second Test mattered little for one of the most confident sides to ever face the All Blacks.

The decisive clash

He explained: “By then after two Tests we had the measure of them, we knew we could get at least parity with our own forward line and could make the difference through the backs.”

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As it turned out, it was the Lions backs who did make the difference, and it’s no surprise with a backline marshalled by the magical Welsh half-back pairing of Gareth Edwards and Barry John.

The latter dropped an early goal to send the Lions into a 3-0 lead before Gerald Davies, starting on the opposite wing to Duckham, snuck over for the opening try, converted from the touchline by John.

The magic was yet to come, however, a moment that was to set them up for one of the finest series victories in Lions history.

Duckham recalls: “We had a line-out on the right, where we would have run the ball left.

“But the idea was to throw the ball to Mervyn Davies our No.8 who’d just pop the ball down to Gareth (Edwards) running round at speed, straight at their half-backs.

“Gareth just ran straight through him, steamed round the back of our line-out and had Barry John on his shoulder.

“The first defender, Bob Burgess, was handed off, and there’s a beautiful picture where you see both of Burgess’ feet off the ground there was that much force.

“All that was left was their full-back, Edwards and John had a two-on-one and we were in under the posts.

“The All Blacks didn’t know what hit them, for me that was the turning point of the whole series. For us this was the decider, we won 13-3 and could no longer lose the series and a Lions team had never had that in New Zealand.”
 
31 JULY 1971

NEW ZEALAND (0) 3, BRITISH & IRISH LIONS (13) 13 (Athletic Park)
 
New Zealand: Laurie Mains(T); Bruce Hunter, Howard Joseph, Wayne Cottrell, Ken Carrington; Bob Burgess, Sid Going; Jazz Muller, Tane Norton, Richard Guy; Brian Lochore, Colin Meads (capt); Ian Kirkpatrick, Alan McNaughton, Alex Wyllie.
Bench: Mick Duncan,
Replacements used: Duncan for Burgess 65.
 
British & Irish Lions: JPR Williams; Gerald Davies(T), John Dawes (capt), Mike Gibson, David Duckham; Barry John(T/2C/D), Gareth Edwards; Ian McLauchlan, John Pullin, Sean Lynch; Gordon Brown, Willie-John McBride; Derek Quinnell, John Taylor, Mervyn Davies.
Bench: John Bevan, Ray Hopkins, Frank Laidlaw, Geoff Evans,
Replacements used:
 
Scoring sequence: 4' John B. (D) 0-3, 10' Davies T.G.R. (T) 0-6, John B. (C) 0-8, 18' John B. (T&C) 0-13, 60' Mains L.W. (T) 3-13.
 
Referee: John Pring (New Zealand).
Attendance: 50000.
 
 

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