Published in Thirteen, 2005
The third Ashes Test 1988
Australia v Great Britain
Sydney Cricket Ground, 9th July 1988
“All week Malcolm tried his best to get a team together. There were a lot of changes but it was still a test match and we played some good rugby and we surprised Australia. They just expected us to lie down but we came up with a great victory and put some pride back into the Great Britain jersey. Henderson’s try was great, I made a couple of breaks but the outstanding try was Mike’s.
“We’d played great in the first half in the first test but didn’t get much luck after half time and you need that in test football, especially against Australia. Then they hammered us in Brisbane. We sat down and talked long and hard before the third game in order to turn things around. We knew we could play better and win. We certainly took them aback and were all over them.
“Being man of the match in Sydney and being part of a winning side against Australia was one of the highlights of my career. You can’t get much better than that” – British scrum half Andy Gregory.
Brits Bounce Back
This fondly remembered game provided so many memorable moments: Henderson Gill’s doing “a bit of a boogie”, Wally Lewis tugging back Martin Offiah as Mike Gregory raced away for his famous 70 metre try and the ecstatic British fans who had finally seen Great Britain defeat the Australians among the thousands of empty seats as the Australian public demonstrated their apathy for the dead-rubber Test match.
The truth was Great Britain could barely raise a team and, somewhat typically, were being absolutely rubbished by the Australian media. No change there. But the wounded Lions were desperate to prove their point and regain some pride, if not actually go all the way and claim the first British win over Australia since the 18-14 win at Odsal in 1978.
Missing the likes of Shaun Edwards, Kevin Beardmore, Steve Hampson, Andy Platt, Garry Schofield, Joe Lydon, Lee Crooks and Andy Goodway for one reason or another, it was little wonder people expected the British to be crushed. As well as that, some players took to the field not fully fit and debuts were handed to Paul Hulme and Hugh Waddell in the front row. Having lost 17-6 in Sydney (after an outstanding Ellery Hanley try gave them a 6-0 lead) and 34-14 in Brisbane, Great Britain had seen another Ashes series slip away. It was effectively a dead rubber but it is now remembered as one of the most famous games in Test-match history. At least from a British point of view.
They raced into a 10-0 lead. Firstly Andy Gregory set up Martin Offiah and the Phil ford scored the second. Surely the Australians would come back?
They did with their talisman Wally Lewis at the fore. Just into the second half he scored a superb individual try beating Paul Hulme, Hugh Waddell and Phil Ford bringing back memories of Central Park in 1986 when his side stepping run down the blindside got the Aussies out of trouble. But they still had more to do here and when Henderson Gill and Sam Backo exchanged tries and time wore on it appeared it was to Great Britains day at last.
The icing on the cake was two tries that have lived long in the memory. Henderson Gill’s hip-wiggling celebration as he scored in the corner is now legendary as is the 50-metre run to the line by second row Mike Gregory after his namesake and man of the match Andy had made the break.
Australia 12 (Lewis & Backo tries. O’Connor 2 goals.)
Great Britain 26 (Gill 2, Offiah, Ford & M Gregory tries. Loughlin 3 goals.)
Australia: Garry Jack, Andrew Ettingshausen, Michael O’Connor, Peter Jackson, Tony Currie, Wally Lewis, Peter Sterling, Martin Bella, Greg Conescu, Sam Backo, Wally Fullerton-Smith, Paul Vautin, Wayne Pearce. Subs: Gary Belcher & Bob Lindner
Great Britain: Phil Ford, Henderson Gill, David Stephenson, Paul Loughlin, Martin Offiah, David Hulme, Andy Gregory, Kevin Ward, Paul Hulme, Hugh Waddell, Mike Gregory, Roy Powell, Ellery Hanley. Subs: Brian Case & Darren Wright