1 Jun 2017

'One of the lowest points in Lions history'

4:37 pm on 1 June 2017

Feature - In the lead-up to the 2017 Lions Tour, Matt Richens is looking back at the moments no-one can forget from their last visit in 2005.

New Zealand All Blacks inside centre Conrad Smith (R) cuts through the Lions defence of Simon Shaw (C) and Shane Byrne (L) score a try against British and Irish Lions in the third Test match played in Auckland, 09 July 2005. The All Blacks won the match 38-19 to win the series 3-0.

All Black Conrad Smith, right, cuts through Lions Simon Shaw, centre, and Shane Byrne to score a try in the third test in Auckland on 9 July 2005. Photo: AFP

2005 - Third Test, July 9, Auckland: All Blacks 38; Lions 19

Heading to the third test, British and Irish Lions coach Clive Woodward would have surely swapped his seven tour game wins over New Zealand provincial sides for a test scalp.

But the last match of the 48-day 11-match tour was nothing for old Clivey to hang his hat on - and the All Blacks swept the tourists 3-0.

New Zealand All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu (R) consoles his Lions counterpart Shane Byrne (L) after they defeated the British and Irish Lions in the third Test match played in Auckland, 09 July 2005.

Keven Mealamu, right, consoles Shane Byrne Photo: AFP

The Lions were bid adieu with their first whitewash in 22 years.

They were again out-thought, out-played and out-classed as the All Blacks ran in the winners at 38-19, though this was easily the Lions' best performance of the series.

A late Rico Gear try from an intercept helped blow the score out though an upset was hardly threatened.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry made eight changes from the team that beat the Lions 48-18 a week before in Wellington, including handing 21-year-old Luke McAlister a debut. Dan Carter, Leon MacDonald, Aaron Mauger and Richie McCaw were all missing through injury, but their side had all the momentum.

McAlister had huge boots to fill replacing the injured Carter - who played the test of his career the week before - and he did a fine job.

After 10 minutes, the All Blacks were 6-0 down - and without captain Tana Umaga, who had been shown yellow for slowing the ball down.

It was the Lions' best chance of the series, but, gun-shy from the previous tests, they couldn't capitalise.

Sione Lauaki found some strangely open space from a 10th minute scrum, the ball was spread wide to Conrad Smith playing just his fourth test and the ABs were on the board.

Three minutes later, any hope of the Lions salvaging a test win slipped away in one of those "what if" moments.

A loopy McAlister pass was leapt on by Lions second five Gareth Thomas, but the captain couldn't hold on and the All Blacks countered.

The Lions had improved their tackling from the inept effort that allowed Smith to score earlier and, with not a lot else on, McAlister put through a desperate, league-style grubber kick.

It looked innocuous enough but Lions halfback Dwayne Peel coughed it up and Ali Williams pounced to give the home side a 14-6 lead.

Umaga scored his first of the night just before the halftime break on the back of a strong McAlister run through a half-gap. It was 24-12 at halftime.

Prince Williams reacts during the British and Irish Lions on the third test match against New Zealand's All Blacks played in Auckland 09 July 2005.

Prince Williams reacts as the third test turns sour. Photo: AFP

Umaga - still labelled enemy No 1 by the British media - scored his 36th career test try as the All Blacks again targeted the defensively weak Stephen Jones in the Lions' 10 jersey.

The All Blacks lost Jerry Collins for 10 minutes for a no-arm tackle and Justin Marshall came on in the 50th minute to play his final half an hour in an All Blacks jersey.

A Lewis Moody try got the Lions within 12 with 20 minutes to go but, despite a much improved forwards effort, they couldn't assert any dominance and relied too heavily on Jones' boot.

The 80th minute Gear intercept was the final act of the tour. He caught a Will Greenwood pass running towards his own line as the Lions were hot on attack and desperate to at least keep the score close.

But Gear turned around quickly, hoofed the ball up field, gave it another nudge at full speed then dived over the line to score the All Blacks' fifth try of the night and 12th of the series.

New Zealand All Blacks captain Tana Umaga holds the trophy aloft after they defeated the British and Irish Lions in the third Test match in Auckland, 09 July 2005.

All Blacks captain Tana Umaga holds the trophy aloft. Photo: AFP

The series was more one-sided than a 3-0 scoreline can show and, if they were being honest, the Lions would admit they were lucky to come second in the first two tests.

Woodward's assistant, Scot Ian McGeechan, pulled no punches in his 2009 autobiography.

"The test series was lost 3-0 and, frankly, we were humiliated… the 48-18 defeat by the All Blacks in the second test in Wellington was one of the lowest points in Lions history. It was very difficult to take… It was bitterly disappointing. The All Blacks were not as good as we made them look."

Lessons have surely been learned but Warren Gatland's Lions are on a crash course for a much better All Blacks side than what was faced 12 years ago.

It's worth remembering, of course, that Gatland's side are much stronger too and have been called one of the best to leave the UK.

But then Woodward's were called the same thing, and we remember how wrong that was.

Who, when and where

Test 3: 9 July, 2005 at Eden Park, Auckland

Crowd: 48,533

All Blacks: 38 (Tana Umaga 2, Rico Gear, Conrad Smith, Ali Williams tries, Luke McAlister 5 cons, pen)

Lions: 19 (Lewis Moody try, Stephen Jones conv, 4 pens)

HT: 24-12.

All Blacks: Mils Muliaina, Rico Gear, Conrad Smith, Tana Umaga (c), Sitiveni Sivivatu; Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher, Sione Lauaki, Rodney So'oialo, Jerry Collins, Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Greg Sommerville, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Res: Derren Witcombe, Campbell Johnstone, James Ryan, Marty Holah, Justin Marshall, Nick Evans, Doug Howlett

Lions: Geordan Murphy, Mark Cueto, Will Greenwood, Gareth Thomas, Josh Lewsey, Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel, Ryan Jones, Lewis Moody, Simon Easterby, Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, Julian White, Shane Byrne, Gethin Jenkins. Res: Gordon Bulloch, Graham Rowntree, Martin Corry, Martyn Williams, Matt Dawson, Ronon O'Gara, Shane Horgan

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (Australia)

British and Irish Lions' 2005 Tour of New Zealand

June 4 - Lions 34 Bay of Plenty 20

June 8 - Lions 36 Taranaki 14

June 11 - NZ Maori 19 Lions 13

June 15 - Lions 23 Wellington 6

June 18 - Lions 30 Otago 19

June 21 - Lions 26 Southland 16

June 25 - All Blacks 21 Lions 3

June 28 - Lions 109 Manawatu 6

July 2 - All Blacks 48 Lions 18

July 5 - Lions 17 Auckland 13

July 9 - All Blacks 38 Lions 19

Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for 11 years. He attributes his premature baldness to the stress of being a sports fan.

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