How have the Lions fared in deciding Tests?

As Sam Warburton so sensibly said last week, the Lions job in New Zealand is half done. As they prepare to finish it, ESPN looks back on the previous occasions when the Lions have come to the final Test with the outcome of the series in doubt — six, like Saturday, with the teams tied and another six from the era of the four-Test series when one team enjoyed a single-game lead.

0 Lions victories in the deciding Test of series against the All Blacks which have remained unresolved before the final Test. Not great news, it must be admitted, but there is one redeeming feature…

1 draw among the 12 series-deciding final Tests played by the Lions since the first of its kind, in Australia in 1899. And that of course is the biggest result in Lions history, arguably the greatest (give or take events in 1905 and 2003) ever in British rugby, the 14-14 draw achieved by John Dawes’ team at Auckland in 1971 to seal the first (and as of today only) series victory by the Lions over the All Blacks.

1 drop-goal has been landed by the Lions in those 12 deciders, the immortal and wholly unexpected 40 metre effort landed by JPR Williams in the second half of that match at Auckland. It was the only drop landed by JPR in his 63 match, 12 year international career. The only drop kicked against the Lions in those matches was also a one-off, from a Test career lasting seven matches, by Springbok outside-half Clive Ulyate in their series-levelling 22-8 victory over the 1955 Lions at Port Elizabeth.

1 Lions team of the 10 who have played a series of three matches of more in New Zealand has succeeded in winning the final Test. That was Ronnie Dawson’s 1959 team who count among the unluckier losers of the Lions parties to have returned defeated from New Zealand, most famously losing a Test match in which their four tries were outweighed by six penalties from All Black kicker Don Clarke, but after three defeats retained their shape and spirit sufficiently to record a 9-6, three tries to nil win in the final match at Auckland, the scores by outside-half Bev Risman and wing Peter Jackson going into Lions legend.

Bev Risman scores a try for the Lions in the final Test of the 1959 tour. Central Press/Getty Images

2 Lions parties seven years apart were thwarted by South African wing Bob Loubser, who was ‘brilliant in the mud’ as a 19 year old debutant when Mark Morrison’s team, which had drawn the first two Tests, were beaten 8-0 at Cape Town in 1903. His seventh and last Test saw Tom Smyth’s 1910 Lions, who had split the first two Tests 1-1, beaten 21-5, also at Newlands. Three All Blacks — Bryan Williams, Tane Norton and Ian Kirkpatrick – also played in two deciders against the Lions, extracting revenge for that 1971 draw-which-was-effectively-a-defeat in the late 1977 defeat of Phil Bennett’s team at Eden Park.

2 pairs of brothers have played in decisive Tests for the Lions. James ‘Tuan’ Jones and Jack ‘Ponty’ Jones — who in spite of his nickname played for Newport — lined up alongside each other for the 1908 Lions, actually an Anglo-Welsh team, when they attempted to follow up a drawn second Test by levelling the series in the final match at Auckland. They were beaten 29-0, but the Scottish pairing of Gavin and Scott Hastings were more successful 81 years later, helping the 1989 tourists to Australia complete their comeback from one down in the series at Sydney, Gavin landing five penalties in their 19-18 victory.

3 Lions teams have won deciding final Tests — all of them in Australia, in 1899, 1989 and most recently in 2013. The record is completed is that single, incomparable draw in New Zealand in 1971 and eight defeats, four in New Zealand, three in South Africa and the 29-23 loss by Martin Johnson’s team to Australia in 2001, a success rate of 29.2 percent.

3 of those dozen Tests have involved Sir Ian McGeechan. He was playing at centre when Bennett’s team fell to the All Blacks in 1977, then coach for the defeat of the Wallabies in 1989 and the loss to an All Black team led by Sean Fitzpatrick — who has recalled the week before, following a 20-7 series-levelling loss in the second Test, as the longest of his rugby career.

3 Lions teams have gone into final Tests with a 2-1 lead. The 1899 Lions beat Australia 13-0, the 1955 team went down 22-8 to South Africa and we should know by now what happened in New Zealand in 1971. The three Lions who needed a win to level the series — 1-0 down in South Africa in 1908 and trailing 2-1 in New Zealand in 1930 and 1977 — all lost.

Ian McGeechan the British Lions coach during the British Lions tour of New Zealand in 1993. Anton Want/Allsport

4 tries were scored by the Lions at Sydney in their 41-16 defeat of the Wallabies four years ago. The scores from Alex Corbisiero, Johnny Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts were easily the most they have achieved in a deciding Test. It was the first time since the 13-0 win over Australia in the same city, but on a different ground, 114 years earlier that the Lions had scored more tries than their opponent in a deciding Test.

5 previous series have been poised at 1-1 before the final Test, and the Lions have a better record in these than overall –defeating Australia in 1989 and 2013 but going down to the Boks in 1910, the All Blacks in 1993 and the Wallabies in 2001 giving them a success rate of 40 percent. The sixth series which was tied going into the last match was the 1903 visit to South Africa, following two draws.

5 previous deciders have been played in July, and here again the Lions have a better record than the norm — those two wins in their last three visits to Australia counterpointed by losses to the All Blacks in 1908 and 1993 and the Wallabies in 2001.

6 Lions teams have won the final Test in series which were already settled, a success rate of 37.5 percent which will remain better than the record in deciders even if the Lions win on Saturday. Four of these teams — in New Zealand in 1959 and South Africa in 1938, 1980 and 2009 — have won the last Test of a series which had already been lost, a success rate of 36.4 percent.

9 tries to nil was the fearful toll exacted on the hapless 1908 Lions by a vengeful team of All Blacks, doubtless baffled as to how they allowed probably the weakest combination sent from here to New Zealand to achieve a 3-3 draw in the second Test of the series. As well that their goal-kicking was decidedly off target, with only one conversion landed, and that in those days a try accounted for only three points, leaving the final margin at 29-0. Frank Mitchinson completed the only hat-trick in a decider. Cliff Porter and Bert Cooke of New Zealand, each playing his final Test, both crossed twice in the 1930 decider, a feat emulated by Theunis Briers of South Africa in 1955 and Daniel Herbert of Australia in 2001.

11 Lions have played in two deciders. The intrepid pre-First World War duo of Frank Stout (1899 and 1903) and Jack Jones (1908 and 1910) stood alone until inimitable Scottish lock Gordon Brown played the final Tests of the 1971 and 1977 series in New Zealand. No fewer than seven men — Gavin Hastings, Ieuan Evans, Jeremy Guscott, Rory Underwood, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore and Dean Richards — played in the final Test victory over Australia in 1989 and the defeat by the All Blacks in 1993. Of the 1993 team, Martin Johnson stayed around long enough to play in the 2001 loss to Australia. Only Johnson, a rare low point in one of the most triumphant of all British rugby career, and Jones lost both times. Nobody has won twice, a distinction that the eight members of Saturday’s 23 who played against Australia in 2013 hope to attain. Five of them — Jonathan Davies, Johnny Sexton, Alun-Wyn Jones, Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau — will have started both times.

Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell lift the Tom Richards Cup following the Lions’ victory over Australia in the 2013 decider. Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

11 Englishmen played the last time the Lions played a decider against New Zealand, the 30-13 defeat at Auckland in 1993. The same number of Welshmen appeared in the victory over Australia four years ago, but 10 were starters, of whom four had left the field by the time replacement Justin Tipuric appeared for the last 25 minutes.

16 tries have been scored by the Lions in 12 deciders, against 36 by their opponents. Seven have been scored by Englishmen. Half-backs Charlie Adamson (1899) and Jack Spoors (1910) stand out for never playing for England, the Bristolian Spoors in spite of his having scored in all of his three Lions Tests. They have been followed by Blackheath wing Tony Novis (1930), back rower Peter Dixon (1971), Jason Robinson and Jonny Wilkinson in 2001 and Corbisiero in 2013. Four Welsh three-quarters — Ieuan Evans, Scott Gibbs, George North and Jamie Roberts — have scored, all since 1989. Johnny Sexton’s try in Sydney four years ago emulated Tony O’Reilly’s score in Port Elizabeth in 1955 while the Scottish scorers were wing Alf Buchler (1899), Clive Woodward’s Loughborough mentor Jim Greenwood (1955) and scrum-half Doug Morgan (1977).

18 Scots have played in deciding matches — Gavin Hastings and Gordon Brown twice — accounting for 20 of the 180 Lions starters. This compares to 27 Irish starters, 54 Welshmen, 77 Englishmen, an Australian (Tom Richards in 1910) and a New Zealander (future NZ Rugby Union president Pat McEvedy in 1908). But Scotland has accounted for a quarter of the Lions captains — Mark Morrison in 1903, Finlay Calder in 1989 and Hastings in 1993, when he had the strange experience of captaining a team in which he was the only Scot, alongside a single Irishman, two Welshmen and 11 Englishmen.

62 years have passed since a series in South Africa went to the last match — the Lions clinching victory with a match to spare in 1974 and 1997 while the Boks went into the final Test with a decisive lead in 1962, 1968, 1980 and 2009. Previously the Boks had taken the series with final Test wins in 1903 and 1910 and pegged the Lions back to a 2-2 draw at the end of the memorable 1955 series.

114 years have passed since victory over the Lions in the final Test of the 1903 series led the Springboks to adopt permanently the green shirts borrowed by skipper Basil Heatlie from his Old Diocesan club. It wasn’t the first time they had worn them, but the drawn second Test in 1903 was the last time they wore anything else, unless compelled to change by colour clashes or other circumstances.

372 points have been scored in the 12 previous deciders, 153 to the Lions and 219 by their opponents. The Lions hold the record for most points in a match — 41 — and by an individual, Leigh Halfpenny’s 21, both in the 2013 match in Australia, although the All Blacks 1908 victory equates to 47 in modern scoring values.

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