Lions serve up a feast of rugby
July 23, 1989
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With the 1989 Test series won 2-1, the Lions stayed in Australia for two more games; a 12 try midweek romp against NSW Country and a more serious encounter with a combined Australian and New Zealand XV.
That the Lions managed to raise themselves to beat the ANZAC XV, in what could almost be considered a fourth Test, was a credit to their professionalism and pride, though these were still amateur days. Of those who had played the deciding Test, won 19-18 by the Lions, eight Australians and nine Lions also started this match.
Conceived by the Australian Rugby Union a year in advance as an opportunity to show talent in equal measure from the ANZAC nations, the match was treated with apparent disdain by New Zealanders, 11 of whom declined invitations to play. Eventually three turned up, prop Steve McDowell arriving late having mislaid his passport.
Among the Australian contingent, captain Nick Farr-Jones, Steve Cutler and David Campese were facing the Lions for the fifth consecutive weekend. Campese's blunder in the Sydney Test that allowed Ieuan Evans to score had seen him cast as villain; this match saw him at his mesmerising best, shredding the Lions' defence time and again with breathtaking turns of pace and direction.
With Finlay Calder's knees suffering, Scottish prop David Sole captained the Lions. Dean Richards and Jeremy Guscott were also injured, Wade Dooley and Rory Underwood were rested, but neither team was taking the game lightly.
The 20,000 Ballymore crowd were treated to a spectacle that encapsulated the whole tour. The Lions notorious forward power was complemented by penetrative attacking flair that produced two tries, and robust defence that restricted the ANZACs to one. There was a nasty head butt on Farr-Jones by prop Mike Griffiths, as if any reminder were needed of the violence seen during the second Test, at the same venue.
Michael Lynagh opened the scoring with an early penalty for the ANZACs. For the first time on tour the Lions didn't command the lineout, Bob Norster and Derek White unable to replicate the Test match work of Dooley and Richards. The Lions, particularly Scott Hastings on the left wing, tackled ferociously to halt wave after wave of ANZAC attack. When Campese, Ian Williams, Frano Botica and Kieran Crowley ran through a Lion, another pounced to prevent a score.
Lynagh's second penalty before half-time was followed by Brendan Mullin breaking a tackle in the ANZAC defence, feeding Gavin Hastings and taking a return pass to go over near the posts for his seventh try of the tour. Hastings converted, leaving the score at 6-6 at the break.
Hastings added a penalty early in the second half. The game's high point followed when Campese gathered the ball deep inside his 22. Seeing space on the right, he chipped for Williams to chase towards the halfway line. Momentary hesitation from Scott Hastings allowed Williams to collect on the bounce and tear off down the wing to score, Lynagh converting from wide out.
The Lions remained committed to running the ball, something they had done little of during the Test series. John Devereux found himself on the end of a long passing move to go over for the fiftieth, and last, Lions try of the tour which, though not converted, gave the tourists a 13-12 lead. Considerable ANZAC pressure in the third quarter yielded no more than a Lynagh penalty, taking his team in front again.
Both Mullin and Evans dislocated shoulders towards the end of the match and, with prop Dai Young having been replaced earlier, this was the first occasion on which three replacements were permitted in top flight rugby.
Nine minutes remained when the Lions regained the lead for the third time. Rob Andrew, on for Mullin, found touch near the ANZAC line, Mike Teague won the lineout and the ball came back for Craig Chalmers to put a drop goal over. It was Teague, again, who won ball on the ground for Hastings to add the final drop goal with only injury time remaining.
The only ANZAC v Lions match to date had provided a feast of rugby, greatly enjoyed by those who witnessed it. Had New Zealand embraced the idea in 1989, the idea of a southern hemisphere combined team might have caught on.
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