Ever since the triumphant 1971 Lions tour of New Zealand,
expectation had been building, ahead of the 1972/3 All Blacks tour
of Europe. New Zealand had only one thing in mind. Revenge.
Their first defeat came in their second game of the tour, when
Carwyn James, legendary Lions coach the previous year, guided his
beloved Llanelli to an unforgettable 9-3 win over Ian Kirkpatrick's
team. Such were the celebrations that the town's pubs ran out of
beer that night.
By the time Kirkpatrick's men arrived in Cardiff, for their
final game in Britain and Ireland, they had suffered two more
defeats. 16-14 to the North-Western Counties at Workington. This
was the first time a touring All Black side had lost to an English
counties team. The second such defeat came two weeks later, when
Midland Counties (West) entered the history books by beating them
16-8 at Moseley's old Reddings home. That match came just four days
after New Zealand prop Keith Murdoch had been sensationally sent
home, following an incident a few hours after he had scored the
winning try against Wales, in Cardiff.
That 19-16 win against Wales was followed by victories against
Scotland (14-9) and England (9-0). The tourists were denied a Grand
Slam when a late try earned Ireland a 10-10 draw in Dublin.
The Barbarians match came a week after the draw in Ireland and
the build-up to the game made frequent references to the Lions
tour, which had seen the Lions claim a 2-1 series win, with the
fourth Test drawn. When the Barbarians selected twelve members of
the Lions party, this was immediately billed as the unofficial
I had to be there. I took the train down from London on the
Friday evening. While taking on liquid sustenance in a city centre
pub, I saw one of the Lions team having a few jars of Liffey water.
That might happen before some Barbarians games (the club still has
a reputation for mixing business with pleasure!), but certainly not
before one of this magnitude - more's the pity.
My friends successfully secured a ticket for me. Not one of
their debentures. This one came from a Welsh selector's dentist!
After enjoying the unique atmosphere of a Cardiff match day in a
pub near the ground, I took my seat - and what a seat it was!
Almost on half-way, in one of the front few rows of the old South