British & Irish Lions History: Since 1888

British & Irish Lions History: Since 1888

1989-1993 – Ian McGeechan is first to coach two Tours

In 1989 the Lions travelled solely to Australia for the first time since 1899 and took home a 2-1 series victory before 1993’s Tour to New Zealand, the last of the amateur era.

1989

The first Tour to resemble a modern day Lions schedule, the 1989 party played just 12 games in Australia during their six-week sojourn.

With Australia hosting an entire Tour for the first time since 1899, The Lions lived up to their name and mauled their opponents, winning 11 of 12 matches and taking the Test series 2-1.

The series was a tight affair with the Lions losing the first encounter in Sydney before coming back to level things in Brisbane and taking the final game by a single point back in Sydney.

In doing so, Finlay Calder’s side became the first Lions side to win a series after losing the opening Test.

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The tourists were managed by former Wales captain and coach Clive Rowlands, coached by Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan and had an assistant manager in Roger Uttley for the first time.

Coach McGeechan had toured twice with The Lions as a player, losing to New Zealand in 1977 after being part of the 1974 Invincibles that went the entire Tour of South Africa unbeaten.

The Tour got off to a strong start with a 44-0 drubbing of Western Australia and a 23-8 victory over Australia B.

The First Test

The Lions went into the first Test on the back of six straight wins, scoring 178 points and conceding just 69, but in front of a capacity 44,000 crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium the half-back pairing of Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh ripped through the Lions.

Full-back Greg Martin scored one of Australia’s four tries as Lynagh scored 14 points by himself to guide the home side to a 30-12 win.

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The Second Test

Just four days later the Lions visited Brisbane for the second Test and, with the outcome of the series potentially at stake, Wade Dooley was brought in to shore up the pack and The Lions walked away 19-12 victors.

Australia were leading heading into the final eight minutes of the punishing encounter but the Lions’ power advantage finally told in the closing stages as Gavin Hastings finished a sweeping move in the right corner to give the tourists the lead.

Try for the apprentice bricklayer

And the win was secured in style as Bath centre (and apprentice bricklayer) Jerry Guscott – only part of the Tour after Will Carling withdrew through injury – collected his own grubber kick in midfield to sprint clear and level the series.

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The Third Test

The Lions returned to Sydney a week later to finish the job and the tightest of games, between two unchanged sides, was decided by an error from Aussie winger David ‘Campo’ Campese.

Three Hastings penalties were countered by an Ian Williams try and Lynagh three-pointer to mean the sides were tied at nine apiece going into the break.

Lynagh kicked again to put the Wallabies ahead early in the second half but then came the moment of madness from Campo.

Rob Andrew skewed an attempted drop-goal horribly wide which Campese collected in his own in-goal area and started to run it out but changed his mind and threw a suicide pass to Martin.

The pass missed its target and Lions winger Ieuan Evans took advantage to touch down for the crucial score.

Hastings kicked two more penalties to give the Lions a seven-point lead and despite the Wallabies’ efforts to claw their way back, six points from Lynagh’s boot were not enough and the tourists hung on for a memorable victory.

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1993 – So close and yet so far

The 1993 Lions were the last of the amateur age and there was much drama and excitement to be found in their 2-1 Test series defeat to New Zealand.

Two series losses and 22 years had gone by since the historic 1971 Tour, where the Lions notched up what is still their only series victory on All Black soil.

But in this Tour they arguably came as close as any side before or since to repeating that feat, and, but for one penalty in the final minute of the first Test, they would have done.

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The charismatic Scot Gavin Hastings was chosen as skipper, with his extreme on-field talents boosted by his previous Lions experience and his immense Scotland performances on their 1990 Tour of New Zealand.

Perhaps the more momentous appointment however was that of Ian McGeechan, the master of 1989, who became the first man ever to coach two Tours.

Brothers in arms

Two sets of brothers made the touring party, with Rory and Tony Underwood of Leicester joining Hastings and his brother Scott.

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The First Test

The 1993 Tour is one of the few that will be remembered primarily for the first Test, rather than the ones that followed it, but the Lions’ narrow defeat in Christchurch was a tough pill to swallow.

Hastings’ side got off to the worst possible start, conceding a try inside two minutes as Evans and Frank Bunce both landed over the tryline after claiming Grant Fox’s high kick.

But the Lions battled back admirably and Hastings sent six penalties sailing through the posts – at that time a new record for the most in a match for the Lions and the joint-most points in one match with Tony Ward.

The final kick put them 18-17 ahead with a minute to play, but that effort was in vain as a controversial last-gasp Fox penalty saw New Zealand snatch away the win.

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The Lions fight back to force a decider

After a single-point defeat in the First Test, the Lions came roaring back with a vengence in the Second Test as McGeechan and Hastings’ risky tactic of playing into the wind and sun in the first half paid dividends.

An impressive showing from the Lions saw them lead 9-7 at the break, despite a try for Eroni Clarke on 30 minutes, as Hastings could not pick up a high ball from Fox in the sun.

Fox at this point had not missed a penalty in Tests in five years, and made no mistake with the conversion, although superb discipline from the Lions meant two Hastings penalties and a perfect Rob Andrew drop-goal saw them edge ahead at half-time.

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And after another Hastings penalty came one of the all-time great Lions tries, started by the irresistible Dewi Morris.

He picked up a loose pass and made the initial break before giving it to Jeremy Guscott, who in turn beat Bunce and John Kirwan before releasing Rory Underwood for a sensational 50-metre score.

One more sweetly struck Hastings penalty handed the Lions their biggest ever points tally against New Zealand, and the 20-7 scoreline is still the tourists’ largest margin of victory against the All Blacks.

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The Decider

And so the Tour came down to a deciding clash at Eden Park, the scene of the Lions’ series-clinching 14-14 draw in 1971, but history was not to repeat itself.

The Lions opened up a ten-point lead thanks to Scott Gibbs’ try and five more points from the boot of Hastings but Sean Fitzpatrick scored after Bunce’s try to put the hosts 14-10 up at the break.

The All Blacks ran away with the contest in the second-half to finish 30-13 winners, with Jon Preston’s try finishing the match and the series.

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