July 4 1959

 Lions vs Otago.

This was the fifth match of the Lions tour and, suffering injury problems, their first defeat.

“The convincing victory over the 1950 Lions by Otago was a memory the 1959 tourists badly wanted to erase, but the ever-increasing list of injuries torpedoed their hopes. True, the Otago team of 1959 was not as strong as that of 1950, which contained 11 All Blacks, but the dark blues posed a serious threat to the visitors. Although Otago finished the 1959 season with an indifferent record, they had not been beaten prior to meeting the Lions. There were two All Blacks (Mark Irwin and Dave Gillespie) in the pack, and ‘Red’ Conway and ‘Tuppy’ Diack were to take part in the test series against the Lions. Keith Nelson was to win his All Black jersey in 1962. Batchelor had made the final New Zealand trial earlier in the season, and most of the team had participated in the regional trials. The Lions were forced to play two loose forwards, Noel Murphy and Haydn Morgan, in the three-quarters, and the versatile Malcolm Thomas had to take over at flyhalf since Risman, Waddell and English were all unavailable. McLeod again filled in at hooker. Heavy rain on the Friday night made the field heavy, which was to the advantage of the Otago pack. A crowd of 25,000 saw the home team repeat the 1950 result by handing the tourists their first defeat in New Zealand in a most convincing manner. The game began in brilliant sunshine, but there was a blustery wind blowing across the field when Gillespie and Scotland led their teams out. Otago faced the sun for the first half. An early lineout penalty gave Diack the chance to open the score from near the touchline in the visitors’ 25, and he sent the ball cleanly between the posts. A penalty against the Lions for obstruction gave the Otago wing the opportunity to add another three points with a kick from about 15 yards in from touch right on the 25-yard line. The Lions scored soon after when they pushed the Otago scrum over the line and Faull fell on the ball for a try which Scotland could not convert. Faull then broke away from a lineout and beat several tacklers on a run of some 40 yards which ended with Leary being bumped flat on his back as the Lions’ number eight sped over for a superb try. Scotland converted to give the visitors a lead of 8-6 at halftime. The home team soon recaptured the lead. From a lineout the ball went along the Otago line to Jopson, who beat his man and raced for the line. He was brought down just short, but Lloyd picked up and dived over. Diack converted. When the ball bounced awkwardly for the Lions near their line, Nelson pounced on it to score after O’Reilly had failed to clear. Diack’s kick missed but Otago had scored two tries in five minutes. With 20 minutes to go, Otago scored again when Diack kicked another penalty goal, from a wide angle about 30 yards out. Then, from broken play, McAuley crashed over in the corner. Although Diack missed the kick, the home team looked to be moving towards a big win. When Edwards kicked for the corner, Diack and Jopson chased hard. Jopson tackled Morgan, snapped up the loose ball and sent it to Diack, who passed to Edwards. The first five-eighth scored in the corner. The final points came from a penalty goal kicked by Diack from in front of the visitors’ posts to make the score 26-8. Otago fully deserved their victory. Although the win was achieved largely through the magnificent play of the Otago forwards, the home backs, especially Batchelor, also acquitted themselves well. Diack’s kicking was an important factor in his team’s success, and Edwards did some useful grubber kicks which had the British backs in all kinds of trouble.

All of the Otago forwards played splendidly, with Conway particularly effective in the loose and Irwin right up to his best form in the tight. Scotland gave a courageous display at fullback for the Lions, hut the rest of the backs, three of whom were playing out of position, were unimpressive. Of the forwards, who were overshadowed by the Otago pack, Marques and Evans did great work in the lineouts, and Smith hunted vigorously in the loose. Faull’s second try was a fine effort.”

“The Visitors” R H Chester & N A C McMillan, Moa Publications, pub. 1990 p.334-36.