5th August: Lions restore pride with victory over Kiwis
Richard de la Riviere looks back at what happened in Rugby League over the years on this day: 5th August
Great Britain finally gave themselves something to smile about by wrapping up their three-match series with New Zealand on this day in 1979 with a great second-half performance.
The Lions’ tour of the Southern Hemisphere of that year is often regarded as the most disappointing in the game’s history.
Not only did Australia win the Ashes with consummate ease, but the tour was also a financial disaster. It was the first ever to lose money – over Â£30,000 – and the crowd of 23,051 for the first Test in Brisbane (which Australia won 35-0) was the lowest between the two countries in Australia since 1910.
To their credit, Britain put their Ashes disappointment behind them and travelled across the Tasman determined to right a few wrongs, although they had suffered several injuries in Australia.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, big forward Jim Mills wasn’t able to play against New Zealand because they had banned him from playing in their country after he had stamped on their prop John Greengrass in a World Cup match in 1975.
Great Britain hadn’t played New Zealand in a series since 1974, when they came from a game down to win the three-match competition on Kiwi soil. They had also beaten them 30-12 in Christchurch in the 1977 World Championship.
The tourists got off to a great start when they won the first Test in Auckland 16-8, with George Fairbairn, Mike Smith, Eric Hughes and Steve Evans scoring the British tries.
And, with forwards of the calibre of George Nicholls, who had taken over the captaincy from the injured Doug Laughton, David Ward, Trevor Skerrett, Len Casey, Jeff Grayshon and Mick Adams, they had every reason to be optimistic of wrapping up the series at Addington Show Grounds in Christchurch in the second Test.
But the Kiwis scored the first try when the wonderfully gifted Olsen Filipaina took a Mark Broadhurst pass to score and a further penalty from the Auckland centre gave his side a 7-2 lead.
Steve Evans got Britain back into it just before half-time by beating Dane O’Hara to the corner and Fairbairn converted from the touchline for a half-time score of 7-all.
After James Leuluai had a try disallowed early in the second half, the tourists dominated the rest of the match. Fairbairn kicked them ahead with a long-range penalty before Casey touched down after an Adams kick.
Hughes then added the gamebreaking try before a late effort from Grayshon sealed an impressive 22-7 win and with it the series.
It would be another ten years before Great Britain would beat New Zealand in a Test series.
GB win first Kumuls Test
Five years later the Lions were again in action in the Southern Hemisphere, this time in Papua New Guinea in their first-ever Test match against the Kumuls.
The game was played at the Rebiamul Oval in Mount Hagen in front of a capacity 7,510 crowd, with hundreds locked out and several spectators climbing trees to watch the contest, indicating the popularity of the country’s national sport.
The Lions had lost six consecutive Tests against Australia and New Zealand, which was the worst record in Lions history, but the game at least allowed the tourists to gain one Test win in an otherwise disappointing time away.
Despite the humidity, Great Britain seemed to have the game wrapped up by half-time, leading 22-4 after tries from Mick Burke, Keith Mumby, Des Drummond and Keith Rayne, while Bob Tolik scored for the hosts.
But the Papuans shook the British with a blistering start to the second half, scoring 16 points in just 15 minutes. David Noifa, Bob Jakis and Arebo Taumaku scored the four-pointers with Bal Numapo converting two.
The gamebreaking moment came from Ellery Hanley, who scored a great try on the hour mark. And when David Hobbs and Drummond scored further tries the score blew out to a somewhat flattering 38-20 for the Lions.
Kear begins climb to safety
With just six games of the season remaining in 2006, and Wakefield in bottom position in Super League, the club appointed John Kear to try to save them from relegation with just six league matches remaining.
In his first game in charge Kear led Wakefield to an 18-0 win at Castleford to give some of their more optimistic supporters hope that they could avoid the dreaded drop into National League One.
Semi Tadulala, Colum Halpenny, James Evans and Tommy Saxton scored their tries, with Jamie Rooney kicking a goal, but Monty Betham and Ned Catic were sent off and seemed likely to be suspended for a portion of the remaining games.
The result lifted them off the bottom rung of the competition ladder, but they were still in the frame to be relegated, with bottom- placed Catalans exempt from relegation.
They were two points behind Wigan, but the Warriors were one of Super League’s in-form sides with six wins in the last seven.
Wakefield had to catch Castleford or Harlequins, making up three points in just five games.
“We’ve put the cat among the pigeons, haven’t we?” said Kear, whose side still had to face Catalans and Leeds at home, St Helens and Bradford away before ending the season with a home game with the Tigers.
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