The players. The coaches. The backroom staff. The press. And of course, the fans. Every four years we all join in our appreciation for top class rugby when the British & Irish Lions tour rolls around again.
And yes, the Lions 2021 tour of South Arica is happening. Undoubtedly that’s a win. But no fans? It’s no doubt tinged with a bit of sadness. But we’re still excited and we know you are too. So what better way of whetting the appetite than with a look back at our top Lions and some of their most memorable moments (our top 5 in fact).
Who are the top scorers in Lions’ history?
Across the Lions’ 651 tour matches in their more than 100-year history, we’ve seen some top players do their bit for the history books.
In terms of top Lions’ points scorers of all time, your top 5 are:
- Andy Irvine: 281 points
- Phil Bennet: 236 points
- Bob Hiller: 214 points
- Gavin Hastings: 192 points
- Barry John: 188 points
And when it comes to try scoring, these Lions are top of the pile in the history books:
- Tony O’Reilly: 37 tries
- Randolph Aston: 30 tries
- Jim Unwin: 23 tries
- Andrew Stoddart: 22
- JJ Williams: 22
- Mike Gibson: 22
Our top 5 most memorable moments
Stats are one thing. But for us the Lions tours are all about that feeling. You know the one we’re talking about.
The feeling for the players pulling on those famous red British and Irish Lions jerseys. The nerves as they enter the fray in the first test. And for the fans? Well, the party atmosphere in the stands still gives us the shivers. So to enjoy just a little bit of that feeling once again, these are our top 5 memorable and historic moments from past Lions tours. They’re in no particular order – we simply couldn’t choose our top 1.
That Jeremy Guscott drop goal in 1997
Let’s make the journey back to South Africa once again. In 1997 the Lions were up against the World Cup winning Springboks on home turf (just as they are in 2021). Having won the first test convincingly 25-16, all eyes were on Durban for the second test. Neil Jenkins’ kicking kept us in it in what was a tight and cagey affair.
Then up popped Guscott for a late and dramatic (and very rare) drop goal to make it 18-15. The Lions held on to that score line to take the series in dramatic fashion.
This was the first Lions tour since the game turned professional and was a real statement win. It still gets us to this day.
The start of the touring tradition in 1888
This one isn’t about one particular moment. The entire tour itself was a historic and momentous occasion. The first ever Lions tour in 1888 took place in Australia and New Zealand and saw the players travel by boat on a 46 day voyage across the world (plenty of team bonding if you ask us).
And it wasn’t just the journey that was gruelling. The 250 day tour saw 35 fixtures played across both countries including the “the fastest and hardest fought game ever seen in Otago” with the Lions clad in red, white and blue running out 8-3 winners over Otago. The Lions left with 27 wins, 6 draws and just 2 losses. The tour was a huge success but was tinged with sadness following the death from drowning of the Lions captain Robert Seddon.
It’s all about George in 2013
Winning in Australia is a huge deal for any Lions side. We all know that. And after the disappointing series loss four years earlier in South Africa (we’re still hurting from the test in Pretoria even now), a win was certainty needed.
And win we did. 2-1 across three epic tests. But it’s actually from the second test defeat that our memorable moment comes. And it’s not even a try. But it’s still an epic moment. Anyone that picks up one of the Wallabies and carries him on his shoulders into battle – just as George North did – epitomises what it means to be a Lion. And don’t forget which Wallaby it was – just the man mountain Israel Folau. Nice one George.
Despite losing this one, the Lions’ fight saw them claim the series victory in the third test in Sydney with a 41-16 win. Now who doesn’t love a Lions’ victory in Sydney?
Barry John is crowned the King in 1971
Back to our list above. You’ll see Barry John, aka the King, fifth on the all-time list of Lions’ points scorers. But the thing about the Welsh fly-half, he did it all in one tour. And what a tour it was. The 1971 win in New Zealand was the first time a Lions’ side was successful in their quest for a series win against the All Blacks. They’re still the only side to do so.
There’s a lot to pick from this tour in terms of success and history, but we’re going with John. Retiring just a year later this was the tour he transcended from Prince to King with his performance in the third test outlining his true legacy. In a 13-3 win for the Lions, the Welshman delivered a try, two conversions and a drop goal. Now that is a pivotal performance.
1974 and the greatest team to ever play the game?
Our final magical moment sees us once again travel to South Africa. This was the only unbeaten Lions tour in the post-war era and saw the Invincibles claim 21 wins out of 22 – and that one drawn game came in the final test when the series was already won.
Captained by Willie John McBride, this is for many the greatest team to ever play the game. An honourable mention must also go to the ’99 call’ where all team members would gather to retaliate if they felt the opposition were getting too physical. Fighting fire with fire, that’s the stuff if you ask us.
Do you agree with our most memorable moments? A bit of reminiscing is certainly giving us some good feelings ahead of the first match in South Africa in July. We’re looking to hear what your favourite memories are from past Lions tours, drop your favourites in the comments below and we’ll share some on our social channels.