August 9 down the years
Fiji stun Australia in epic encounter
Christian Cullen is tackled by Russell Bennett during the 12-try epic in 1997 © Getty Images

More than 42,000 watched an epic contest in which the lead changed hands several times before Fiji beat Australia 17-15 at the SCG. With the score 12-12 with less than five minutes remaining, Fijian outside-half Wame Salabogi broke through and charged over under the Australian posts to leave his half-back partner Suliasi Vatabua a simple conversion. In the closing moments, Australia were stuck on their own 25. The Sunday Herald described what followed: "Australia won a lineout, and the backs handling beautifully and running strongly, cut through the defence and flashed downfield. Breakaway Col Windon and centre Herb Barker supported winger Eddie Stapleton as he neared the tryline. When Stapleton was tackled, Barker snapped up the ball and passed out to Windon, who scored in the corner. The crowd roared, though many spectators realised that there was little hope of levelling the scores. The sideline kick was difficult, and had to be taken under pressure. Stapleton missed with his attempt, but could not be criticised for his failure"

A new-look New Zealand were beaten 13-12 by Australia in Wellington. The Kiwis fielded a young and inexperienced side due to the fact that the majority of their top players had been banned from playing in the first two games of the series as punishment for their involvement in the controversial New Zealand Cavaliers tour of South Africa earlier in the year.

To the relief of the authorities the Springbok tour ended and the squad, dogged by protests throughout, headed back to South Africa after a bitter tour which divided Australia. It also left the media at war with each other. "The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian veered hard right with only The Age and the Canberra Times still sensitive to the cause of the protest," noted the Times, which also praised the Springboks for their "great self discipline".

New Zealand defeated South Africa 55-35 in a thrilling Tri-Nations clash in Auckland which produced a staggering 12 tries. Christian Cullen helped himself to a brace but Carlos Spencer was the star of the show, the fly-half ending with 25 points to his name after bagging a try, four conversions and four penalties.

New Zealand sealed a 3-1 series win over the Lions with a commanding 22-8 victory over the Lions in Wellington. The All Blacks outscored by the tourists by six tries to one but the game is more notable for the fact that it marked the end of George Nepia's international career. The legendary fullback played 46 times for New Zealand, amassing 99 points in the process.

Lions captain Phil Bennett landed five penalties as the tourists defeated Bay of Plenty 23-16 in Rotorua. Elgan Rees and David Burcher both crossed for the Lions.

Australia avoided a series whitewash in New Zealand by defeating the All Blacks 30-16 in the third and final test, in Auckland.


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