Local Lions no match in 1971

Fotopress in Wellington     14 Jun 2005     Fotopress

On the eve of the June 5 match, rugby-mad Camp was first in a ticket queue that would eventually snake all the way through the suburb of Newtown to Wellington Hospital.

“It was a spur of the moment decision,” Camp recalls. “Fuelled by some dreadful Red Band beer which tasted like cod-liver oil, four of us slept outside the main stand that night. We were all keen as mud on rugby.”

The 16- and 17-year-olds, braced against the cold by sleeping bags, were interviewed live on radio before the gates at the northern end of the ground finally opened at 10am the next morning.

“There was a fair old queue by then ... some of whom obviously weren’t deterred by the fact we were smelling a bit!" Camp laughed. "2ZB asked us who was going to win and Wellington were fielding a bloody good team that day - Ian Nectar, Graham Williams, Andy Leslie and John Dougan were all either All Blacks or about to be - so we said about 22-12 to us.”

Close, but no cigar. The 1971 British and Irish Lions destroyed the home-side 47-9 that day.

They remain the only Lions side to have won a Test series in New Zealand and Camp – still rugby mad, still living in Wellington and still with those 1971 tickets – doesn’t have to close his eyes for long to remember why.

“We were seated at the half-way mark on the western side and Athletic Park was packed to the gunnels.

“The match itself was absolutely stunning. Barry John ... with that impeccable round-the-corner style of kicking goals, Gareth Edwards at halfback, J.P.R Williams - and the extremely-gifted Irishman Mike Gibson. With skills by the semi-trailer and Mervyn Davies and Willie John McBride to boot, they tore us apart.

"The forwards played like backs and vice versa. I can’t pinpoint any one moment that stood out because the whole game still does."

Camp hopes it won't be a case of Lions eating Lions again this Wednesday.

“I’m going to see again them this time around. Even better, I've already got tickets so I probably won’t be sleeping out...”

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