The British Isles evolve into Lions
August 19, 1950
Ken Jones touches down for the Lions while playing against a New Zealand combined side on the 1950 tour
© Getty Images
The 1950 British Isles tourists - on an allowance of five shillings each a day and free cigarettes - were the first to wear red shirts and the first to be popularly known as the Lions.
They arrived in Australia after three months and 23 matches in New Zealand, including three losses and a draw in the Tests. The Lions notched a creditable 2-0 series win over Australia, who had beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand in 1949.
A Welsh Grand Slam in the spring was reflected in a tour party captained by Irish hooker Karl Mullen, made up of 13 Welsh, nine Irish, five Scots and three Englishmen. Affectionately monickered 'The Singing Lions' in New Zealand, the tourists sang their way through the long journeys by sea and land, often performing at functions, effectively singing for their supper. On arrival in Sydney they recorded 18 songs at the ABC studios.
When teenage sensation Lewis Jones joined the tour in New Zealand as a replacement, he became the first Lion to fly, and quickly found himself in the Test team. This match in Brisbane was to be his finest hour in international rugby, scoring a full set of a try, two conversions, two penalties and a drop goal, amounting to 16 points.
Neither team fielded its original captain for the match; Mullen withdrew with an ankle injury, giving the reins to centre Bleddyn Williams while Australia lost Trevor Allan, who had led them since the 1947-48 tour of Europe, just before the match.
20,000 turned up to see the Lions take on a Wallaby side with six debutants, none of whose international career extended beyond this series. But there was quality in the half-backs, Cyril Burke and John Solomon, and the pack contained Nick Shehadie, Keith Cross and Dave Brockhoff, who later coached the Wallabies 1974-79.
Lions' try scorer Bleddyn Williams © PA Photos
Bill Gardiner opened the scoring for Australia with a penalty. The Lions quickly drew level when Jones kicked a 50 yard drop goal from a lineout. Minutes later Jones made the extra man in a move to score in the corner, converting his try from the touchline. A long range penalty completed his full set before half-time.
Lions wing Malcolm Thomas went off injured after 26 minutes but they continued to play open, flowing rugby when down to 14 men. Australia rallied briefly in the second half, Gardiner knocked another penalty over but they were kept in check as Jones matched that penalty.
The Times reported, "There was no doubt about the British superiority, for they were always too fast and clever for Australia, who missed the defensive work of T. Allan."
The closing minutes were all in favour of the British Isles. Skipper Williams went over in the corner for a try and Jones capped his perfect afternoon with another touchline conversion.
Even without the injured Ken Jones on the wing, the Lions back division was special, predominantly Welsh but marshalled by Ireland's finest fly-half, Jackie Kyle, himself a Grand Slam winner in 1948.
The teams met again at the Sydney Cricket Ground a week later. Jones had a poor day with the boot, missing several easy shots before prop John Robins took over kicking duties. Five tries to one, however, ensured a comfortable 24-3 win for the British Isles.
The voyage home included a stop in Ceylon for the tour's final match, a 44-6 win in Colombo.
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