The 8 Greatest Lions Victories
The British and Irish Lions have produced some of the most memorable contests in the history of rugby union. Touring New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, they never have it easy but they have pulled off some sensational wins over the last 30 years. Here are the eight most memorable victories the Lions have secured.
2013 – Australia 21-23 Lions
This was a thrilling start to the 2013 test series which the tourists won by a hair as the hosts spurned a number of chances from the boots of James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale. O’Connor missed a conversion chance and two penalties whilst Beale missed two penalties of his own when he took over the kicking duties. Leigh Halfpenny was much less wasteful for the Lions as he put five of his six chances over the posts to finish with 13 points and make the difference between the sides. It was a remarkable turnaround after the Aussies took a 7-0 lead after 13 minutes.
2013 – Australia 16 – 41 Lions
After two incredibly tight games left the series 1-1 it was anyone’s tour heading into the third and final clash in Sydney. This one was not a close match with Leigh Halfpenny again in fine form with the boot and a thrilling second half display which saw tries from Jonny Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts. Australia could not muster much of a response in the second stanza with just one penalty the extent of their scoring in the latter 40 minutes. A stunning performance wrapped up an impressive tour win for the men in red.
2001 - Australia 13-29 Lions
The 2001 test series got off to a stellar start for the tourists with Jason Robinson scoring the first try of the three contests between the two sides. It was a Lions side filled with great names and Robinson’s effort was followed by further tries from Dafydd James, Brian O’Driscoll and Scott Quinnell. Jonny Wilkinson also chipped in with three conversions and a penalty for good measure. The Wallabies were resoundingly beaten with only the last try of the game from Andrew Walker making the scoreline respectable. Unfortunately for the Lions they went on to lose the next two tests and the series.
1997 – South Africa 16-25 Lions
The Lions were lengthy underdogs heading into the 1997 tour at the home of the world champions but they didn’t play like long-shots as they took the first match comfortably at Newlands. Tries from Matt Dawson and Alan Tate went a long way, but it was the reliable boot of Neil Jenkins that really made the difference as he kicked five penalties en route to victory. There had been signs of decline in the Proteas’ camp before the tour with coach Andre Markgraaff departing and World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar getting the boot, but no one expected such a comfortable win for the Lions.
1997 – South Africa 15-18 Lions
Despite the relative ease of the first victory on the 1997 tour, many expected South Africa to bounce back with a win in the second clash, and they probably should have. The home side managed three tries but somehow lost the game 18-15, missing all three conversion attempts and not converting a single penalty. Things were very different for the visitors who had Neil Jenkins to rely upon and he kicked five more penalties to level the scores. Then came one of the most famous moments in Lions history as Jeremy Guscott pinged over a drop goal to secure the victory.
1993 – New Zealand 7-20 Lions
The 1993 trip to New Zealand didn’t turn out to be a great one for the Lions, losing the test series 2-1 and also being beaten in tour games against the likes of Otago, Auckland, Hawke’s Day and Waikato. However, there was one memorable and fantastic moment for the side coached by Ian McGeechan and captained by Gavin Hastings. Having lost the first test narrowly 20-18 the Lions knew they could compete and they showed it in the second clash with the All Blacks. A try from Rory Underwood, predictably reliable kicking from Hastings and even a Rob Andrew drop goal gave them the 20-7 win in Wellington. This gave them a tremendous chance to win the series in Auckland but it wasn’t to be as they were handily beaten 30-13.
1989 – Australia 12-19 Lions
Way back when tries only scored you four points, the Lions pulled off an incredible series win Down Under and it was this match which levelled the series at 1-1. The Wallabies had comfortably won the opener 30-12 so things looked pretty bleak for the tourists but they were not to be deterred in the second test in Brisbane. Tries from Gavin Hastings and Jeremy Guscott and solid kicking from Hastings and Rob Andrew was enough for the visitors to down the Aussies as even the great Michael Lynagh couldn’t level the playing field.
1989 – Australia 18-19 Lions
The decider in the 1989 series was unbelievably close and one of the most thrilling Lions contests of all time - win or lose. The match will be most remembered for the horrific error from David Campese which led to the Lions’ only try of the match which proved decisive. Campese claimed the ball behind his own tryline and instead of touching down, he ran out before throwing a lackadaisical pass towards Greg Martin on the tryline. It was a poor pass which Martin didn’t really want and all he could do was palm it down into the path of Ieuan Evans who scored the try. The Lions held on at the end and claimed the series.
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