July 16 down the years
All Blacks humiliate the 'worst ever' Lions
Lions captain Ciaran Fitzgerald scrambles for the loose ball during his team's defeat in Auckland © Getty Images
New Zealand inflicted a record 38-6 defeat on Ciaran Fitzgerald's Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, condemning the tourists to an humiliating 4-0 series whitewash. The series was perhaps the most one-sided of recent years involving the Lions and the final Test the worst of the lot. "It represented a level of All Black skill and teamwork and exuberant joy which New Zealand, or any country for that matter, seldom reach," noted the Times. "No amount of training could bridge the gap between the teamwork and ability of the opposition and the earnest endeavours of the Lions." Rather bizarrely, in the days before ubiquitous media managers kept players largely in check, as the squad left the plane on their return at Heathrow Airport they sang: "We were the worst Lions".
From a high to a low. The darkest year in New Zealand Test history began in Cape Town with a 15-11 defeat by South Africa at Newlands. Okey Geffin is the source of the Springboks' points, landing a then record five penalty goals. The All Blacks lost every one of their six matches in 1949 including a total of four defeats at the hands of the Springboks with Australia also inflicting two defeat on their cross-Tasman rivals. Their heaviest defeat came at the hands of the Wallabies who beat them 16-9 in the final match of the year in Auckland.
The Lions crashed 20-3 to New Zealand in Dunedin in the first Test of their four-match rubber. The tourists, who had arrived confidently in New Zealand on the back of a 2-0 series victory over Australia, were eventually whitewashed 4-0 in the Test series. "Truth to tell, the margin could have been greater," wrote the Times rugby correspondent. "The British Isles got a thorough walloping …the only grain of comfort was that on this form the All Blacks would probably have beaten any team in the world." The paper also noted to the surprise of many a small pocket of Lions fans was in attendance. How times change.
The Australian board admitted that the costs of additional security involved in policing the controversial Springboks tour had eaten up any likely profits long before the Test series started. Against that backdrop the press released instructions to anti-apartheid demonstrators which had been leaked to it. They included orders to "throw smoke bombs in unison when play comes close" and a caution "to watch for straight types … they may be plain clothes cops … a good test is to offer them a whistle or a cigarette and watch the reaction".
Despite vehement objections from their government, New Zealand players headed to South Africa to take part in a Test series. Seven of them headed straight from the final Lions Test (see above) to Auckland airport where they were secretly boarded onto a plane to avoid anti-apartheid demonstrators who had been tipped off as to their plans.
Another bad day for the Lions who, after a run of six wins, were stunned 20-0 at Port Elizabeth by an Eastern Province side whose front-row unexpectedly dominated the tourists and kept them camped in their own 22. Despite this they only scored the one try, and that was only the third conceded in their eight tour matches to that time.
England's Cherry Pillman reached fifty tour points in his tenth match of the Lions tour of South Africa, his try and two conversions helping the visitors to a 19-13 win in the return match with Natal in Durban.
In only their second match in New Zealand, the Springboks were sorely tested by Taranaki who hold the tourists to a scoreless draw in New Plymouth.
A brace of tries from Elgan Rees, one from Andy Irvine and two Phil Bennett penalties bring the Lions a morale-boosting 18-13 victory against Waikato at Hamilton.