Lions deciders

Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis looks back at some of the past series deciders involving the Lions over the years.

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 03/07/13 2:44am

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Saturday's clash at the ANZ Stadium will not be the first time the British and Irish Lions have gone into the final Test with the series on the balance.

And ahead of the third Test in Sydney, we look back at some of the past series deciders the Lions have faced over the years.

1955 Crusaders Ground - South Africa 22 British and Irish Lions 8

Cliff Morgan is tackled during the Lions' 1955 tour to South Africa

The 1955 Lions had lifted the popularity of the tourists to new levels, with their brand of free-flowing rugby earning praise from all quarters. The Lions had won the first Test - in one of the greatest matches ever played - only for South Africa to hit back to level the series. A 9-6 victory in the third Test, though, gave the Lions a 2-1 advantage heading into the decider in Port Elizabeth. However they missed out on the chance of a first series win over the Springboks since 1896 after coming unstuck at the Crusaders Ground. The Lions led 5-3 at the break however a second-half onslaught - with the hosts scoring four of their five tries after the interval - saw the Boks claim victory. Tony O'Reilly and Jim Greenwood scored tries for the Lions but it was all in vain.

1971 Eden Park - New Zealand 14 British and Irish Lions 14

Barry John in full flow against New Zealand in 1971

The Lions created history by recording a first-ever series win over the All Blacks, however it went right to the wire. The Lions won the first Test only to be caught out by an almighty backlash in Christchurch. A 13-3 third Test victory, though, meant the Lions ensured they were guaranteed at least a share of the series heading to Auckland. And there was nothing to separate the two sides at a packed Eden Park in the fourth Test. Peter Dixon's try and five points from Barry John meant the scores were tied 8-8 at the break, with the Wales fly-half adding a second penalty after the interval. However the defining moment came when JPR Williams landed a 45m drop-goal - the only one of his Test career - to put the Lions 14-11 up. The All Blacks levelled again through the boot of Laurie Mains however they could not find another way through as the Lions held on to draw the match and win the series 2-1.

1977 Eden Park - New Zealand 10 British and Irish Lions 9

Steve Fenwick attempts to find a way through during the 1977 series

In a reversal of fortunes from six years before, it was the All Blacks who clinched the series on the final game. The hosts had gone some way to erasing the memories of the 1971 tour by recording victories in the first and third Tests, while the Lions won 13-9 at Lancaster Park in Christchurch to remain in the series. However despite having the power up-front, the tourists were unable to finish with a share of the spoils as they lost 10-9 in Auckland. New Zealand, who resorted to three-man scrums to negate the forward power of the Lions, had been trailing to Doug Morgan's nine-point haul - but they clinched victory in injury time when Lawrie Knight scored.

1989 Sydney Football Stadium - Australia 18 British and Irish Lions 19

Ieuan Evans hands of David Campese during the third Test win over Australia in 1989

The Lions must have feared the worst after they suffered a 30-12 rout in the first Test against the Wallabies. No Lions team had ever recovered from losing the opening match to win the series - and the manner of the loss was a concern as Australia outscored the tourists four tries to nil. However Finlay Calder's side gave themselves a chance after recovering to level the series with a 19-12 victory in a brutal second Test. Buoyed by this success the Lions returned to Sydney with a renewed belief. An exciting game ensued, with the decisive moment coming when Ieuan Evans pounced on an error by David Campese to score. Gavin Hastings also landed 15 points from the boot, while the Lions had to survive a late onslaught to claim an historic 19-18 win.

1993 Eden Park - New Zealand 30 British and Irish Lions 13

The Lions are dejected by their third Test defeat in 1993

The Lions will look back at the 1993 tour to New Zealand and wonder how they didn't finish as series winners. Just as on the previous tour to Australia four years before, the Lions lost the first Test - however it had been in controversial circumstances, with much debate over Frank Bunce's opening try and Grant Fox's injury-time penalty. The Lions responded brilliantly to register a record 20-7 victory in the second Test. And the tourists carried that momentum into the series decider in Auckland as Scott Gibbs scored a try and Hastings slotted over the conversion and a penalty. However the All Blacks hit back in devastating fashion, with Jon Preston, Sean Fitzpatrick and Bunce all scoring tries en route to a 30-13 victory.

2001 Stadium Australia - Australia 29 British and Irish Lions 23

For the second successive tour to Australia, the Lions went into the final Test needing to win to clinch the series. However they were unable to emulate the success of 12 years before as the Wallabies claimed a first-ever series triumph. For 120 minutes there had looked only one victor, with the Lions winning the opener and then leading at half-time in the second Test. However the Wallabies staged an impressive second-half revival to level the series. The Lions headed to Stadium Australia for the decider and both sides pushed hard for the victory. Jason Robinson crossed for first try, while Jonny Wilkinson registered a try, two conversions and three penalties to leave the match finely poised at 23-23. Matt Burke kept his cool to edge Australia 29-23 clear with two penalties, while Justin Harrison claimed cult status as he stole a crucial Lions lineout 10m in the dying moments.

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