JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Eales relives passion play

Turning point … Daniel Herbert scores the first of two tries in the third Test in 2001.

Turning point … Daniel Herbert scores the first of two tries in the third Test in 2001. Photo: Tim Clayton

 The first time the Lions truly hove to on the horizon of John Eales, he was still a callow teenager, living in Brisbane, who had never pulled on a representative jersey.

But something about the 1989 series got to him.

''I watched every minute of every Test,'' he recalls. ''And I particularly remember watching the Wallabies singing the national anthem, before the first Test, against the British Lions, wondering what it would be like.'' Twelve years later, in 2001, Eales would have his answer. Wonderfully spine-tingling!

No better feeling ... John Eales with the Tom Richards Trophy.

No better feeling ... John Eales with the Tom Richards Trophy. Photo: Reuters

In 1999, of course, he had captained the Wallabies to victory in the World Cup, and by the end of 2000 and another successful year, there were no honours the game had left to bestow on him, no summits he had not climbed … except one.

''The fact that the Lions were coming in 2001 kept me playing for another year,'' he says flatly. ''There is just something magical about a Lions tour. The fact that it only happens once every 12 years and is the best of the best from Great Britain and Ireland; that makes it much, much more than another Test series. I wanted to play in it and I wanted the Wallabies to win more than ever, because after watching so closely the last series and realising how special it was, I knew this was our chance.''

It would be tough. When Eales ran out at the head of his troops for the first Test at the Gabba, up against Martin Johnson's Lions, the world champions were filled with confidence, only to be confronted by something entirely unexpected. The particular tunnel they ran out of at the Brisbane ground faced straight towards the stand where the Lions supporters were at their thickest, and at first, all the Wallabies could see was tens of thousands of red jerseys, filled with people roaring for the other team. And even when they looked around, it didn't get a whole lot better. A veritable sea of red.

''Wow,'' Eales remembers with a grimace. ''It was just so striking. We were a team that had been through a lot, and prided ourselves on our composure whatever the situation. But that was the most startled we'd ever been. At half-time, and down 12-3, in the dressing-room as I spoke, there were eyes everywhere but on me. There was a strong sense that this just wasn't our night.''

That sense was confirmed at the final whistle, as the Wallabies went down 29-14. The storyline gained another factor when, just before the second Test down in Melbourne, coach Rod Macqueen took Eales aside and told him something he would tell the team after the Test. Win, lose, or draw, he was going to retire as soon as the three-Test series was over.

''I'd always wanted to win the series, of course,'' Eales says. ''But after Rod told me that, it was obsessive. He was a coach that gave so much to Australian rugby, and it would have been awful to send him out with a series loss.''

Again, it would be tough. Again, the Lions played well, and again the Wallabies were down at half-time 11-6. But this time, the mood in the dressing room was different.

''This time,'' Eales recalls with relish, ''there was a very strong sense of this is our night, and we can take these blokes if we just stay at it, and back ourselves.''

Specifically, you, Joe Roff. Just minutes into the second half, the flying Wallaby winger backed himself to take an intercept and … did so, to run away and score one in the corner for the goodies. Double or nothing, Joe?

Roff took the bet, and shortly after scored another try to put the Wallabies in the lead.

''After that,'' Eales says, ''it all came together and we

dominated them.'' The Wallabies won, going away, 29-14, to even the series, setting up a finale to beat them all.

Complicating things somewhat was the loss of star Wallaby five-eighth Stephen Larkham before the third Test at Sydney's Stadium Australia, meaning utility back Elton Flatley had to fill in.

That utility very nearly blew a gasket in the first half after a head-high tackle but played on.

''It was rugby at its best,'' Eales says, ''with two great teams before a roaring crowd doing everything to win to take the whole series.''

With all the rugby world watching, the evenly balanced contest roared for the duration. Early in the second half the Lions skipped to a 20 to 16 lead courtesy of a Jonny Wilkinson try and conversion. But then Wallaby centre Daniel Herbert was able to return serve with an ace in the left-hand corner, and with that try converted, the home team - RAH! - was up 23-20.

Several penalties later, the situation with a minute to go was Australia defending a 29-23 lead, but the Lions were right on the Wallabies line, with their own put-in to the lineout.

''We were composed,'' Eales says. ''We knew it all came down to this. We had to either win the line-out or, at the very least, stop their driving maul, which was their main weapon.'' What say you, Justin Harrison, making your debut for the Wallabies, jumping against the mighty Martin Johnson at no.2 in the lineout. Shouting out coded Wallaby-speak, Harrison lets the others know he is going to go for it. Who else would Johnson call but himself in such a situation?

The ball goes in. Harrison leaps early and forward and snatches it! Relief, John? ''Not at all. We still had a minute or two to go, and there was no time for that in all the helter-skelter, until …''

Until the referee blows full-time. Now there is time for all that. Victory. Relief. Cheers, tears and beers - and fare thee well, Rod Macqueen - as off into the wild night they go.

If the coming Lions series is only half as good as the last one, it will still be fantastic.

''It remains one of my favourite rugby memories,'' Eales says softly.

Twitter:- @Peter_Fitz

7 comments so far

  • watching the 2nd and 3rd games of the 2001 series,made up my little mind , coming down in june to be at one test and one of the super 15 games. i know it only happens once every 12 yrs to visit australia, next time i'm too old to fly, and the caliber of all the players ,it will make a exiting series of games. CAN'T WAIT, SEE YOU IN JUNE. CHEERS TG

    tony gillis
    vancouver bc, canada
    Date and time
    February 18, 2013, 6:30AM
    • Peter Fitz also ignores the key moment of the tour - the disgraceful "hit" on Richard Hill in the 2nd test. The Lions had dominated up to that point, with Hill supreme. Once he was off the field, the tide turned. Roff's intercept was important but not as important as Hill's departure.

      Date and time
      February 18, 2013, 10:34AM
      • Trevorowl, Mate let it go.. Anthony Mundine called, he wants his sour grapes back.. We won. Deal with it.

        Date and time
        February 18, 2013, 5:42PM
        • That Lions side seemed totally invincible until Australia A (lead by Phil Waugh from memory) simply bashed them in Gosford. Let's hope the provincial teams take a leaf this time around!

          Date and time
          February 20, 2013, 9:51AM
          • Getoverit, I got over it years ago - only a game of rugby after all (not sure if I have got over Terry Lamb's hit on Ellery Hanley though ha ha). But now people are reminiscing about the 2001 tour, we should not let history be re-written. Australia may still have won with Hill on the field (and the Lions could have won the last test without Hill) - but no doubt his departure was an important moment and those writing about the 2001 tour should acknowledge that.

            Date and time
            February 20, 2013, 12:01PM
            • Looking forward to it. We will be watching it here in Kobe. I will be one of the minority in the Irish pub, though. It will be a rare sight to see the Irish owner and regulars supporting English players!

              Date and time
              February 20, 2013, 1:27PM
              • Yeah, Richard Hill got hit high and late by Nathan Grey. I also recall Steve Larkham copping a couple of even more blatant late hits in the 2nd test. He didn't play the 3rd test.

                Cambridge, UK
                Date and time
                February 22, 2013, 1:50AM

                Make a comment

                You are logged in as [Logout]

                All information entered below may be published.

                Error: Please enter your screen name.

                Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

                Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

                Error: Please enter your comment.

                Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

                Post to

                You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

                Thank you

                Your comment has been submitted for approval.

                Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

                Related Coverage

                Super Rugby 2015

                Round 1
                Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
                CRU 10vs REB 20 Report Stats
                BRU 47vs RED 3 Stats
                Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
                LIO 8vs HUR 22 Report Stats
                BLU 18vs CHF 23 Report Stats
                Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
                SHA 29vs CHT 35 Report Stats
                BUL 17vs STO 29 Report Stats
                WAR 13vs FOR 25 Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 2
                Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
                CHF 19vs BRU 17 Report Stats
                REB 28vs WAR 38 Report Stats
                Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
                BUL 13vs HUR 17 Report Stats
                HIG 20vs CRU 26 Report Stats
                RED 18vs FOR 6 Report Stats
                Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
                STO 27vs BLU 16 Report Stats
                SHA 29vs LIO 12 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 3
                Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
                HIG 20vs RED 13 Report Stats
                FOR 13vs HUR 42 Stats
                Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
                CHT 25vs BLU 24 Report Stats
                CHF 40vs CRU 16 Stats
                REB 15vs BRU 20 Report Stats
                Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
                BUL 43vs SHA 35 Report Stats
                LIO 19vs STO 22 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 4
                Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
                CHF 17vs HIG 20 Report Stats
                BRU 27vs FOR 15 Report Stats
                Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
                BLU 10vs LIO 13 Report Stats
                RED 5vs WAR 23 Report Stats
                Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
                CHT 20vs BUL 39 Report Stats
                STO 29vs SHA 13 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 5
                Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
                HUR 30vs BLU 23 Report Stats
                FOR 17vs REB 21 Report Stats
                Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
                CRU 34vs LIO 6 Report Stats
                HIG 26vs WAR 19 Report Stats
                RED 0vs BRU 29 Stats
                Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
                STO 19vs CHF 28 Report Stats
                CHT 10vs SHA 27 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 6
                Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
                HIG 13vs HUR 20 Report Stats
                REB 16vs LIO 20 Report Stats
                Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
                CRU 57vs CHT 14 Report Stats
                Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
                BUL 25vs FOR 24 Report Stats
                SHA 12vs CHF 11 Report Stats
                WAR 28vs BRU 13 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 7
                Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
                HUR 36vs REB 12 Report Stats
                RED 17vs LIO 18 Report Stats
                Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
                CHF 37vs CHT 27 Report Stats
                HIG 39vs STO 21 Report Stats
                WAR 23vs BLU 11 Report Stats
                Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
                SHA 15vs FOR 9 Report Stats
                BUL 31vs CRU 19 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 8
                Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
                HUR 25vs STO 20 Report Stats
                REB 23vs RED 15 Report Stats
                Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
                CHF 23vs BLU 16 Report Stats
                BRU 20vs CHT 3 Report Stats
                Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
                SHA 10vs CRU 52 Report Stats
                LIO 22vs BUL 18 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 9
                Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
                BLU 16vs BRU 14 Report Stats
                Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
                CRU 20vs HIG 25 Report Stats
                WAR 18vs STO 32 Report Stats
                FOR 15vs CHT 24 Report Stats
                Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
                LIO 23vs SHA 21 Report Stats
                BUL 43vs RED 22 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 10
                Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
                CRU 9vs CHF 26 Report Stats
                Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
                HUR 24vs WAR 29 Report Stats
                HIG 30vs BLU 24 Report Stats
                BRU 8vs REB 13 Report Stats
                FOR 6vs STO 13 Report Stats
                Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
                SHA 10vs BUL 17 Report Stats
                CHT 17vs RED 18 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 11
                Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
                CHF 35vs FOR 27 Report Stats
                BRU 31vs HIG 18 Report Stats
                Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
                CRU 29vs BLU 15 Report Stats
                WAR 18vs REB 16 Report Stats
                Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
                LIO 34vs CHT 29 Report Stats
                STO 15vs BUL 13 Report Stats
                RED 19vs HUR 35 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 12
                Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
                HIG 48vs SHA 15 Report Stats
                BRU 10vs WAR 13 Report Stats
                Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
                BLU 41vs FOR 24 Report Stats
                HUR 29vs CRU 23 Report Stats
                REB 16vs CHF 15 Report Stats
                Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
                CHT 25vs STO 17 Report Stats
                BUL 35vs LIO 33 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 13
                Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
                CRU 58vs RED 17 Report Stats
                REB 42vs BLU 22 Report Stats
                Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
                HUR 32vs SHA 24 Report Stats
                FOR 18vs WAR 11 Report Stats
                LIO 28vs HIG 23 Report Stats
                Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
                STO 25vs BRU 24 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 14
                Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
                BLU 23vs BUL 18 Report Stats
                RED 46vs REB 29 Report Stats
                Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
                HUR 22vs CHF 18 Report Stats
                WAR 33vs SHA 18 Report Stats
                Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
                LIO 20vs BRU 30 Report Stats
                CHT 24vs HIG 45 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 15
                Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
                CHF 34vs BUL 20 Report Stats
                RED 14vs SHA 21 Report Stats
                Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
                BLU 5vs HUR 29 Report Stats
                WAR 32vs CRU 22 Report Stats
                FOR 3vs HIG 23 Report Stats
                Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
                CHT 17vs LIO 40 Report Stats
                STO 31vs REB 15 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 16
                Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
                CRU 35vs HUR 18 Report Stats
                BRU 22vs BUL 16 Report Stats
                Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
                SHA 25vs REB 21 Report Stats
                HIG 36vs CHF 9 Report Stats
                FOR 10vs RED 32 Report Stats
                Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
                STO 42vs CHT 12 Report Stats
                LIO 27vs WAR 22 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 17
                Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
                HUR 56vs HIG 20 Report Stats
                FOR 20vs BRU 33 Report Stats
                Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
                REB 21vs BUL 20 Report Stats
                BLU 11vs CRU 34 Report Stats
                RED 3vs CHF 24 Report Stats
                CHT 33vs WAR 58 Report Stats
                Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
                STO 19vs LIO 19 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Round 18
                Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
                BLU 7vs HIG 44 Report Stats
                REB 11vs FOR 13 Report Stats
                Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
                BRU 24vs CRU 37 Report Stats
                CHF 13vs HUR 21 Report Stats
                WAR 31vs RED 5 Report Stats
                Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
                BUL 29vs CHT 42 Report Stats
                SHA 34vs STO 12 Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Super Rugby Qualifying Finals
                Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
                HIG 24vs CHF 14 Report Stats
                Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
                STO 19vs BRU 39 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Super Rugby Semi Finals
                Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
                HUR 29vs BRU 9 Stats
                WAR 17vs HIG 35 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Super Rugby Grand Final
                Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
                HUR 14vs HIG 21 Report Stats
                View All Fixtures
                Super Rugby 2015
                Overall standings
                Team P W L D +/- Pts
                Hurricanes 16 14 2 0 170 66
                Waratahs 16 11 5 0 96 52
                Stormers 16 10 5 1 50 45
                Highlanders 16 11 5 0 117 53
                Brumbies 16 9 7 0 108 47
                Lions 16 9 6 1 -22 42
                Chiefs 16 10 6 0 73 48
                Bulls 16 7 9 0 9 38
                View all

                Follow Us on Facebook

                Featured advertisers