Streaking to victory
October 14, 2010
Gary Teichmann celebrates with the 1998 Tri-Nations trophy © Getty Images
New Zealand's rampage to Commonwealth gold on Tuesday continued their remarkable 12-year unbeaten run at the Games and with their feats in the shortened form of the game in mind we've collected some other notable streaks in our latest Scrum Seven.
Springboks in for the long haul
Under the guidance of former Western Province No.8 Nick Mallett, the 1997-98 Springboks equalled the world record set by New Zealand between 1965 and 1969, winning 17 Tests on the trot. Their unbeaten run included a maiden Tri-Nations title - secured with a 29-15 win over the Wallabies in Johannesburg - as well as victories over the Home Unions, France and Italy. Mallett's men had peaked a wee bit early however and their defence of the Rugby World Cup in 1999 ended with disappointment against Stephen Larkham and Australia in the semi-finals.
Lithuania - rugby powerhouse
Currently the only country to rack up 18 straight Test victories, Lithuania went unbeaten between October 28, 2006 and April 24, 2010. Their eventual conquerors were Ukraine, who cruelly curtailed their run with a 27-16 in their Rugby World Cup qualifying clash in Vilnius. Lithuania's bread and butter during their all-conquering run was Division 3A of the European Nations Cup, a competition they won promotion from at the end of the 2010 campaign. Their record is currently in jeopardy - New Zealand can pass their mark if they record a Grand Slam in November.
Can we have our Shield back?
The Ranfurly Shield has a special place in the heart of New Zealand rugby fans, particularly those with a fondness for tradition over the modern machinations of Super Rugby. The 99-year-old 'Log o' Wood', donated by the governor of New Zealand, the Earl of Ranfurly, was first challenged for in 1904 - when Wellington snatched the spoils from original holders Auckland. In recent years the Shield has lost some of its lustre partly due to the jiggery-pokery constantly affecting the structure of the National Provincial Championship, but some trace its decline back to 1985, when Auckland set off on a 61-match unbeaten run in Ranfurly challenges. The holders took the Shield beyond the borders of the traditional rugby heartlands and to smaller provincial unions, with some commentators praising this as a move for the good of the sport and others as a cheapening of the prize. They eventually lost their booty to Waikato on September 18, 1993. In 2010, Southland successfully rekindled the mystique of the trophy with their reign - completing six defences after wrestling it from Super Rugby powerhouses Canterbury.
'The Invincibles, eh? Nice ring to it.'
The 1971 British & Irish Lions stunned the All Blacks on home soil and it was always going to take something special for their achievements to be upstaged three years later. The 1974 vintage, led by the legendary Willie John McBride, did just that. Touching down in South Africa amid protestations from certain players due to their hosts' appalling apartheid regime, the Lions went unbeaten on tour. Marshalled by Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett at halfback and featuring legendary Lions Ian McGeechan, Fran Cotton, Fergus Slattery, JPR Williams and Gerald Davies among their number, the tourists went unbeaten in 22 games, including three Tests. Their final game, against the Springboks in Johannesburg, ended in a draw after referee Max Baise disallowed a try to Slattery. The official had earlier given a generous decision in the Lions' favour by allowing a score to flanker Roger Uttley however, with the ball having not been grounded.
Tigers take charge
Leicester Tigers have been the dominant force in English rugby since the advent of the professional era, and they also hold the record for the longest unbeaten run in the history of the Premiership. Their streak is spread over two Championship-winning campaigns between December 26, 1999 - when they beat Bath 13-3 at the Rec - and September 6, 2000. Saracens' 17-9 victory at Vicarage Road brought the curtain down on the Tigers' record but they would only lose three times in the season to emerge as runaway title winners.
'The Invincibles, eh? We used that name years ago.'
The 1924 All Blacks followed in the footsteps of the 1905 'Originals' in embarking on a tour of Europe, but they remarkably upstaged their legendary forerunners by emerging from a gruelling 32-match trip unbeaten. The squad, for whom fullback George Nepia played all 32 games, began their tour with an 11-0 victory over Devon on September 13, 1924. Four Test matches followed and victories over England, France, Ireland and Wales. On February 18, 1925 the tourists played their final game, beating Victoria 68-4 at Vancouver Island in Canada.
Useless on the other side of the bridge
With a Test record as close theirs (after 119 Test clashes England boast 54 wins to Wales' 53) it's not surprising to see a couple of streaks emerge from this intense northern hemisphere rivalry. Both teams have endured misery on away trips (or glory at home, depending on your world view) - England going 28 years without a win in Cardiff between 1963 and 1991, when Will Carling led his side to a 25-6 win against a Wales side featuring debutants Scott Gibbs and Neil Jenkins. Wales had the year before lost 34-6 at Twickenham - the beginning of an 18-year winning streak for England over their old rivals at HQ. That run was ended by Warren Gatland's Grand Slam-winning side in 2008 - 20 years since their last victory in London - thanks to tries from Lee Byrne and Mike Phillips in a 26-19 win.
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