FLASHBACK FRIDAY: CANTERBURY UPSETS 1990 LIONS TOURISTS
With the NRL recently spruiking the return of Kangaroo Tours and the likes of Canterbury juniors Jamayne Isaako, Kodi Nikorima and Jazz Tevaga firming as inclusions for the NZ Kiwis’ end-of-year trip to England and France, Flashback Friday revisits one of Canterbury’s most memorable days hosting an international touring team.
This season marks 28 years since Canterbury’s win at the Addington Showgrounds, prevailing 18-10 against the 1990 Great Britain Lions in one of the great tour match boilovers.
Coming off a trying rebuilding season in ’89, the Frank Endacott-coached Canterbury side went into their match against Great Britain, a nation the red-and-blacks had not beaten in six attempts – including a 53-6 drubbing in the previous fixture against the 1966 tourists – as rank outsiders.
Endacott fielded one of Canterbury’s youngest-ever line-ups in the midweek clash. Winger Peter Kaisa was the oldest member of the backline at just 24, while Logan Edwards, Mike Culley and Simon Angell were 21 or younger.
But a blistering 70-metre run from the kick-off by fullback Carl Hall indicated the unheralded hosts meant business, and promising centre Mike Doreen scored the only try of the first half in front of the 3,000-strong Showgrounds crowd.
Canterbury powered to a 16-0 lead after tries to halfback Aaron Whittaker and second-rower Gary Leck, who also led the tackle count with 31, and stoically held onto their lead as the Lions’ comeback fell eight points short. Leck’s second-row partner Culley slotted three goals.
There was little doubt about the emphatic nature of the upset, with Great Britain fullback Alan Tait’s try – the visitors’ second after lock David Bishop crossed – coming on the stroke of fulltime.
The result was a triumph for captain and hooker Wayne Wallace (pictured), one of few experienced members of the Canterbury squad, who had announced the previous day that he would be retiring from representative football. The 11-Test Kiwi played his last match for the province against West Coast later that season, finishing with a Canterbury record 57 appearances.
The unforgettable victory was Canterbury’s first over a touring side since their 24-13 defeat of France in 1955.
Canterbury 18 (Mike Doreen, Aaron Whittaker, Gary Leck tries; Mike Culley 3 goals) defeated Great Britain 10 (David Bishop, Alan Tait tries; Paul Eastwood goal) at Addington Showgrounds, Christchurch on Wednesday, June 13, 1990.
Canterbury: Carl Hall, Whetu Taewa, Mike Doreen, Brett Rodger, Peter Kaisa, Mark Nixon, Aaron Whittaker, Ricky Cowan, Wayne Wallace (c), Ron Simanu, Gary Leck, Mike Culley, Logan Edwards. Replacements: Simon Angell, Lance Setu. Coach: Frank Endacott.
Great Britain: Alan Tait, Paul Eastwood, Shaun Irwin, Joe Lydon, Roger Simpson, Graham Steadman, Deryck Fox, Ian Lucas, Lee Jackson, Karl Fairbank, Ian Smales, Gary Price, David Bishop. Replacements: Roy Powell, Mike Gregory. Coach: Malcolm Reilly.
Sources: Lion Red 1990 New Zealand Rugby League Annual – edited by Bernard Wood.
The Hard Yards: Rugby League in Canterbury 1912-2012 – by John Coffey.