ADVERTISEMENT

ARCHIVE: Waratahs play dirty in brutal Lions clash in 2001

BY Shaywaterworth  ·  Sunday Apr 26, 2020

It’s been almost 20 years since the British & Irish Lions fielded a near Test-strength side against the NSW Waratahs on 23 June 2001.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Lions were seven days out from their opening Test match against the Wallabies in Brisbane when they played the Tahs in one of the most brutal games of the professional era.

Five yellow cards were brandished throughout the 80 minutes, but Duncan McRae’s assault on Ronan O’Gara is what the game is remembered for nearly two decades on.

In what looked like an unprovoked attack, the Australian landed 11 punches to O’Gara as the Irishman lay defenceless on the ground.

O’Gara left the pitch requiring eight stitches under his eye while McRae was given a red card and a seven-week ban from rugby.

Twelve years later, when the Lions revisited Australia in 2013, McRae reflected on the incident: “We wanted to make a statement in the build-up to the Test series. We were fired-up for a big game, in front of a big crowd on a big night for us, but the whole thing spilled over and caught up with a few of us.

“We wanted to put a stamp down and bash them up a bit before the Tests, but history doesn’t look on us kindly, because they responded with a fantastic performance in Brisbane a week later. Maybe in hindsight we should have gone in with a softer mentality. We just added fuel to the fire.’

ADVERTISEMENT

“Me and Ronan crossed paths a few times in the build-up to that moment. We got involved, but I ended up taking it to the wrong level. He’s a fiery bloke and I’m a fiery bloke, so no-one’s going to back down. None of the Lions backed down that night.

“He and I know what happened in there. He did something, I saw red, he was below me and the rest is history. That’s what I’m known for now and I have to live with that. In hindsight, I wish it hadn’t got to that point but I can’t change it now – what’s done is done.”

Ronan o'gara Waratahs lions 2001

Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

However in O’Gara’s autobiography, published in 2008, he recalled a slightly different interpretation of events: “What we discovered at the Sydney Football Stadium was that the Waratahs had taken it upon themselves to sort us out.

ADVERTISEMENT

“They made their intentions clear right away. Straight from the kick-off, Danny Grewcock was flattened with an elbow to the jaw and Tom Bowman was immediately sin-binned. There were four seconds on the clock.

“53 minutes later they did me…Two of their guys brought (Kieth) Woody down. One of them was Duncan McRae. As the ruck was forming I followed up and shoved him. Next thing I knew I was on the ground and McRae was pucking the head off me.

“After the first dig I thought it was going to stop any second but they kept coming. Nine. 10. 11. A frenzy of digs. One after another after another. I just lay there and took it. It was the weirdest feeling. Lying there I felt totally lost. Like I was in a daze. Even though he was on top of me, I wasn’t pinned down. I tried to protect my face with my right arm and after a couple of seconds I grabbed the back of his jersey with my left. Useless. Pointless. Why? Why didn’t I try to push him off? Hit him. Something. Why did I just take it?”

After the game, Lions head coach Graham Henry said it was, “a bad day for rugby. I thought the game had been cleaned up. This was a shambles. Rugby needs strong discipline from both sets of players. I was proud of the way our players kept theirs.”

Comments




Related Articles

  • 9 WEEKS AGO

    Fiji Drua player Lomani slapped with ban...

  • 19 WEEKS AGO

    The sending off that rocked the Six Nations...

  • 20 WEEKS AGO

    Wrecking ball beats 10 players to score full...



ADVERTISEMENT

Great Tries

  • 4 DAYS AGO

    Bordeaux prop scores the ultimate front row try in the Top 14

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Northampton Saints youngster George Hendy seals the Premiership title

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Springbok centre tears it up in the Top 14 for a crucial hattrick

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    English winger leaves defenders in his dust for long range score in Top 14

  • 10 WEEKS AGO

    Five of the best tries from the Investec Champions Cup

View All

Big Hits & Dirty Play

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    WATCH: Bath's Beno Obano shown red in the Premiership final

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    World Player of the Year BANNED heading into Paris Olympics following horror challenge during Madrid SVNS

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Debate surrounding ludicrous rugby league tackle leaves union fans baffled

  • 1 WEEK AGO

    Courtney Lawes: 'We don't need to have a 10/10 performance or do anything out of the ordinary'

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    Player handed LIFETIME ban for shocking tackle on referee

View All

See It To Believe It

  • 6 DAYS AGO

    Leinster prospect pulls off outlandish footballing skills in URC quarterfinal

  • 7 WEEKS AGO

    Danny care binned for high tackle on Courtney Lawes

  • 7 WEEKS AGO

    Wild start at Twickenham as Quins pull off another wonder-try

  • 10 WEEKS AGO

    Tickets now on sale as World XV set to face France in thrilling encounter

  • 10 WEEKS AGO

    '60 metres, plus change' - massive drop goal stuns fans

View All

Funnies

  • 6 DAYS AGO

    Former French star's 'tackle of the season attempt' goes viral

  • 2 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: Hilarious interaction between Simon Zebo and journalist

  • 6 WEEKS AGO

    Nick David unexpectedly shows up to semi final in full kit

  • 8 WEEKS AGO

    WATCH: The worst camera angle in rugby history

  • 9 WEEKS AGO

    Louis Rees-Zammit's real reason for NFL move exposed

View All

Amateur

  • 75 WEEKS AGO

    You Won’t See Many Better Than This Silky-Smooth Try From Llandovery RFC

  • 75 WEEKS AGO

    Incredible Scenes As Caldy RFC Hand Ealing First Championship Defeat Of The Season

  • 98 WEEKS AGO

    Dubious Score Decides Result Of Rugby's Biggest Schools Fixture

  • 98 WEEKS AGO

    Incredible Scenes At School Boys Rugby Match

  • 98 WEEKS AGO

    The Next Dominant Backrow?

View All

Player Features

  • 1 DAY AGO

    Andy Goode includes Joe Marler in his England XV to beat New Zealand on summer tour

  • 2 DAYS AGO

    Beno Obano receives judgement following Gallagher Premiership final red card

  • 2 DAYS AGO

    URC Awards: Jamie Richie turnover king and a big win for Jack Crowley

  • 3 DAYS AGO

    Gloucester confirm prop switch to Saracens

  • 3 DAYS AGO

    Several top stars to miss Scotland's summer tour as Gregor Townsend announces squad

View All