July 18 down the years
The Boot kicks New Zealand to unsatisfying win
Don Clarke on the ball during New Zealand's win .. but the local papers were far from impressed © Unknown

In their first Test against the All Blacks, Ronnie Dawson's Lions scored four tries to nil but were beaten 18-17 with Don Clarke landing six penalties for the home side. The front page headline of the Sports Post the next day read: "Clarke 18, British Isles 17". The Daily Express noted that the match "emphasised the need for a common understanding of the laws of rugby" and pointed out that 21 of the 35 penalties awarded went to New Zealand and that "the referee's decisions had the 40,000 crowd cheering the Lions". The local papers were scathing about the All Black's performance. "The saddest rugby test that has ever been played in New Zealand took place this afternoon," lamented Dunedin's Star Sports while the Dominion said "statistics are coldly factual things... [and this was] a travesty of justice".

The Kerry Packer-backed World Rugby Corporation unveiled plans for a professional rugby "circus" that posed a serious threat to the future of rugby union as an amateur game at its highest level. Reports suggested that nearly a thousand leading players had been recruited for three years to play in a 30-team competition. Packer had previously created a similar venture with the ground-breaking World Series Cricket series, a breakaway competition that ran in opposition to established international cricket between 1977 and 1979. The scheme reportedly failed when the world champion Springboks decided en masse to stay with the establishment, which was supported by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

New Zealand kicked off the defence of their Tri-Nations crown with a 22-16 victory over Australia in a titanic tussle at Eden Park in Auckland. A try from returning captain Richie McCaw and 17 points from the boot of fly-half Stephen Donald rescued the hosts after a stuttering start had seen the Wallabies build an early lead on the back of a score from Berrick Barnes and the assured boot of No.10 Matt Giteau. The result extended the Wallabies' miserable record in Auckland where they had not won since 1986.

Despite vehement objections from their government, New Zealand players headed to South Africa to take part in a Test series. But they had to go on a variety of routes to get there to avoid the media. Half a dozen flew to London alongside the Lions squad they had just whitewashed before transiting to Johannesburg.

In the last provincial match of their tour, the Anglo-Welsh Lions went down 11-0 to Auckland. The 1908 British Isles tour to New Zealand and Australia was the seventh tour by a British Isles team and the fourth to New Zealand and Australia. The tour is often referred to as the Anglo-Welsh Tour as only English and Welsh players were selected due to the Irish and Scottish Rugby Unions not participating. The Lions played a total of 26 matches - 9 in Australia and 17 in New Zealand. The tourists failed to win any of the three Test matches against the All Blacks with the hosts winning two and the other being drawn.

Fullback Fergi McCormick scored a try and kicked three conversions and four penalties to steer the All Blacks to an easy 30-12 win against the Orange Free State in Bloemfontein.

England manager Clive Woodward slammed Graham Henry for not setting high-enough standards on the recently completed Lions tour of Australia. "The highest standards have not been put forward by the Lions management from the the start of the trip," he fumed. "They have not set the right example themselves. It is totally wrong for Graham Henry to be writing a book." Woodward managed the 2005 Lions to ignominious defeat in New Zealand but at least stopped short of writing a tour book.

In the fourth match of the tour, Mark Morrison's Lions registered their first victory beating Port Elizabeth Clubs 15-0 on the Crusader Ground.

A matter of three months after Welsh rugby mourned the death of the great 'Merv the swerve', they had to cope with the passing of Dr. Jack Matthews. Matthews was part of a legendary Welsh midfield partnership alongside Bleddyn Williams during the late 1940s and early 1950s. A General Practitioner by profession, the former Newport and Cardiff star Matthews was also a doctor on the British & Irish Lions' tour of South Africa in 1980.

© Scrum.com

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