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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
History of the Lions: South Africa 1974
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport

With Wales' Alun Thomas as manager and the great Irish lock Willie John McBride as captain, the stucture was in place for an assault on the Boks by a party determined to emulate the feats of the 1971 tourists.

An abrasive pack and devastating backs based around the great Welsh team of the '70s meant they had the firepower to compete.

The Lions were unleashed in the first Test at Newlands and ripped into their hosts to claim a 12-3 victory.

This was at sea level, and there were doubts as to whether they could maintain this form when the tour moved to the high veldt.

The worries were unfounded. A convincing victory over Transvaal got the Lions in the mood for the second Test in Pretoria where, in a devastating display, they tore the Boks to shreds.

Welsh wing JJ Williams starred in a stunning 28-9 success, a record win for any Lions Test team.

The tourists continued to rattle up the points in the provincial games and, by the time of the third Test at Port Elizabeth, the South African selectors were in a panic.

They named three scrum-halves in the squad for the game, only deciding between them on the morning of the match.

Predictably, the Lions profited from the chaos to emerge with another rampant victory, 26-9.

The wounded Boks were determined to recover some pride in the final Test at Ellis Park.

The tourists were ready for the challenge, though, and a heart-stopping encounter ensued.

The sides were locked at 13-13 late in the game when Ireland's open-side Fergus Slattery crossed the line.

Willie John McBride
Willie John McBride in action on the 1974 tour
The referee deemed that he was held up, but video shots show that the ball was grounded.

The controversial decision meant the game was drawn and the Lions denied a 100% tour record.

However, they would still be known as "the invincibles" and they amassed a total of 729 points, including 107 tries.

Even among the array of talent on show, it was agreed Wales' fly-half Phil Bennett stood out.

He scored in every Test to show the world the electric form he had displayed in the '73 All Blacks-Barbarians game.


1974 Lions: Squad and results
18 May 05 |  Lions in NZ

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