Classic Match: 1993 Lions come back to beat the Maori


Classic Match: 1993 Lions come back to beat the Maori

Often on a British & Irish Lions Tour, there is one match that really sparks the tour into life.

Suddenly, everything becomes real and the race for a Test jersey takes shape.

In 1993, that game came in the third match of the tour as the Lions headed to Wellington to take on the New Zealand Maori.

The Lions had beaten North Auckland and North Harbour to that point, but came up against a Maori side packed with talent, not least Zinzan Brooke at No.8 and Eric Rush on the wing.

It was the man on the other side from Rush who made the first real impact though, Allen Prince racing away down the left touchline for a brilliant score.

Steve Hirini converted and added a penalty before going over himself for the second Maori try to make it 17-0.

They could have had another try before half-time, Ben Clarke making up incredible ground to deny Prince when he seemed to have the overlap again on the right.

Hirini did add three more points and the Lions were staring down the barrel at 20-0 at half-time.

Their response was far from immediate, trailing 20-3 as the game approached the final quarter. But it was then that they and the Tour really took off.

Ieuan Evans burst away off a short pass from Gavin Hastings, showing his pace to get over in the right corner.

And he was crucial for the second Lions try, getting back to a kick ahead, racing left and sparking a length-of-the-field counter-attack.

Will Carling and Scott Hastings both touched the ball before it got out to Rory Underwood, who had too much pace for Prince and got the Lions back to 20-17 down.

Then, with less than ten minutes to go, the Lions set up an attack off the back of a lineout with Scott Hastings charging into the heart of the midfield.

They switched play back left and Stuart Barnes found the other Hastings brother, Tour captain Gavin, who stepped past two defenders and carried the final one over the line for the tourists’ third try.

He converted his own score and the Lions withstood a final Maori counter-attack to take the game 24-20.

The Lions skipper acknowledged just how hard his team had been pushed. He said: “We were very relieved because we were 20-0 down at half-time and 20-3 with about 20 minutes to go. But the two tries, Ieuan Evans took his try very well and came in on a cross-field run for Rory Underwood to run about 60 metres. That turned the game.”

The Tour was well and truly up and running after that turnaround, with the Lions taking the momentum into their next game, a comfortable 28-10 win over Canterbury in Christchurch.

While they did lose to Otago in Dunedin in their penultimate Tour game before the Test series, the Lions went into the opener full of confidence.

It was a Test that went down to the wire, Grant Fox’s late penalty giving New Zealand a 20-18 win in a game the Lions felt they could have won.

They responded in emphatic fashion, heading back to Wellington and the site of their Maori comeback. This time, against the All Blacks, they were just as impressive, recording a 20-7 success to level the series.

But four years on from winning a Test series after losing the opening Test for the first time, the Lions could not repeat the trick.

Despite leading 10-0 at Eden Park in Auckland, they eventually ran out of steam and lost 30-13, with New Zealand taking the series 2-1.

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