May 28 down the years
Lions skipper slams 'cowardly act'
Saracens with the Premiership trophy on this day in 2011 © Getty Images

Ciaran Fitzgerald led his British & Irish Lions to a 25-18 win against Manawatu at Palmerston North in the last Saturday match before the Test series against the All Blacks began. It was an acrimonious battle as the Lions complained of being kicked, trampled on and hit off-the-ball. Fitzgerald and Iain Paxton had head wounds, and Graham Price had stud marks on his back. Fitzgerald ditched all diplomacy, telling the Daily Express: "If they are playing the bail, that's fine, but we have seen a couple of examples where we have been played instead of the ball. That is a cowardly act and a player who does that must be a coward in my book. A punch in a punch-up is a natural reaction in the heat of the moment. What we have seen done to Terry Holmes and Paxton is different. I don't understand the general acceptance of it here."

A surreal Super 14 final was won by the Crusaders, who beat the Hurricanes 19-12 in Christchurch, but the game was more memorable because of the thick fog which at times reduced the contest to near farce. Conditions worsened as the match wore on and sections of the crowd in the multi-storied Western Stand were reportedly forced to leave the ground because they couldnĀ“t see the field. A postponement was considered but it was decided player safety would not be compromised. As many felt that TV had forced the game to go ahead at the expense of the paying public, there was some amusement when conditions got so bad that coverage was adversely affected.

An Irish XV, selected from the party due to tour America, were beaten 31-30 by the Barbarians in a ding-dong battle at Lansdowne Road. The Baa-Baas scored five brilliant tries to Ireland's four, two of them in the last quarter by South Africa full-back Stefan Terblanche. Ireland suffered injuries during the game to Brian O'Driscoll, Jeremy Davidson, Girvan Dempsey and Geordan Murphy.

France cut loose in their World Cup pool match in Wellington, New Zealand, running in nine tries in their 55-12 defeat of Romania despite being held to 12-12 at the break. Guy Laporte scored a French record of 23 points. In the day's other game, Hugo Porta kicked five penalties and a conversion as Argentina beat Italy 25-16.

Still reeling after their reverse in the Test the previous weekend, England were walloped 20-5 during their tour of New Zealand by an outstanding Hawke's Bay side. A young Ian MacRae was the stand-out player for the hosts, scoring a hat-trick of tries.

Andy Irvine was on song for the Lions, scoring a try, a conversion and two penalty goals in their 21-13 win against Taranaki.

The inaugural IRB Sevens Series reached its climax in Paris where New Zealand beat South Africa in the final to take the title with 186 tournament points. Fiji were the runners-up, six points behind the winners.

Saracens were crowned English champions for the first time as they defeated Leicester Tigers 22-18 at Twickenham in the Aviva Premiership final. Nineteen-year-old Owen Farrell won the battle of the kickers, landing fi ve penalties as well as converting James Short's first-half try to outshine his opposite number, England's No1 fly-half Toby Flood.

Hopes that the British Lions would meet a multi-racial side at Ellis Park were dashed when the minister for sport, Piet Koornhof, said that the Quaggas side had not applied for "permission to include non-whites". He added that speculation "creates unnecessary hopes and embarrassment and does not benefit sport in South Africa". Although other sports had fielded multi-racial sides, rugby could not as it was classified as a "physical-contact sport".

Munster defeated Leinster 19-9 in the RaboDirect PRO12 final at Thomond Park. Doug Howlett and Keith Earls both crossed for the victors, who also forced a late penalty try as they denied their provincial rivals a league and Heineken Cup double. Leinster, just seven days on from being crowned champions of Europe after a stunning come-from-behind win over Northampton Saints, managed just three penalties from Jonathan Sexton.

The farce of the foggy final in 2006 © Getty Images

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