By NZRW Editor: Gregor Paul

Ten of the Greatest All Blacks Games: #08

We continue the countdown of the greatest All Blacks games from the last 25 years, at number 8 is the game that cemented Sean Fitzpatrick’s captaincy…

PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand 30
British Lions 13

3rd test: Eden Park, July 3, 1993

Background

The series was level and while the Lions’ mid-week side had been dire, their top team showed in the second test that they could put a high quality 80-minute performance together. The All Blacks were under enormous pressure coming into the decider as they had been poor in defeat the week before and a number of players knew that their careers were on the line.

How it Played Out

The All Blacks were a different team to the one that limped and bungled its way through the second test. From the first minute they had control and the Lions were given no room, no ball and no chance to play. It was classic All Black rugby that built the pressure and slowly killed any self belief the Lions might have had. The accuracy and tempo were back where they needed to be and the individuals under pressure responded magnificently. Frank Bunce scored a try after Lions captain Gavin Hastings got lost on defence, and the All Blacks just grew from there. They got the break 14-10 ahead but any hope the Lions had was crushed in the second 40 minutes. The All Blacks just got tighter and tighter, scored two more tries and never gave the visitors a whiff of hope.

Heroes

This was one of the best performances of Sean Fitzpatrick’s career – he was disciplined, accurate, intense and led by example, even scoring a try. Grant Fox was immaculate with his boot and Bunce gave the certainty and delivery that was required from a centre. Special mention has to be made of Lions blindside Ben Clarke who had another enormous game in what was a hugely impressive tour from the English loose forward.

Context

Victory secured Fitzpatrick’s place as captain. He’d been a surprise choice in 1992 and had not been an instant success. Captaincy didn’t come naturally at first but by the middle of 1993 and the Lions defeated, Fitzy had proven he was the man for the job. That win at Eden Park set the All Blacks up for a relatively successful season where they defeated Australia, Samoa and Scotland. They then unexpectedly lost to England in the final test, which left many of the team with a renewed hunger and desperation when they reached 1994. The Lions series was also the beginning of what became a fabled front-row alliance: Craig Dowd-Fitzpatrick-Olo Brown. By 1996 those three would become one of the strongest and best scrummaging units to ever represent the All Blacks.

Scorers

New Zealand 30

F. Bunce, J. Preston. S. Fitzpatrick tries; G. Fox 3 cons, 3 pens.

British Lions 13

S. Gibbs try; G. Hastings con, 2 pens.

End Sign
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