A look at the All Blacks touring Grand Slams
James Mortimer 05 Apr 2010 getty
In theory, a Grand Slam is referral to either a Six Nations 5-0 whitewash, or Southern Hemisphere (or in theory, any hemisphere) victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The All Blacks, with three such Slams (1978, 2005 and 2008) will attempt to win their fourth. While some may argue as to the proximity between attempted Slams, the achievement still ranks as a significant landmark for a test nations.
The first Slam attempt was actually undertaken by “the Originals” in 1905.
Their lost match, against Wales 3-0 on the 16th December, was the only loss suffered by the team on tour in 35 games.
Thirty years later another Grand Slam was attempted, and the All Blacks won their first two matches against Scotland 18-8 and Ireland 17-9. However a 13-12 loss to Wales was suffered, before losing to reigning Five Nations champions England and legendary back Prince Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky, 13-0 at Twickenham.
The Russian scored two memorable tries, with the other English wing Hal Sever scoring to hold Jack Manchester’s All Blacks scoreless for only the second time by a Northern Hemisphere nation.
In 1953 Bob Stuarts All Blacks arrived in Cardiff to play Wales on their first tour match with five debutants, and lost 13-8, but won their last three against England, Ireland and Scotland.
Ten years later, one of the great New Zealand test captains in Wilson Whineray, led his All Blacks to an unbeaten tour of the home nations, but a scoreless draw against Brian Neill’s Scottish team prevented a maiden Grand Slam.
In 1972, another great All Black team, led by Ian Kirkpatrick and fresh of a 3-0 Bledisloe Cup success, again went undefeated through the home nations. But on the 20th January Ireland would achieve their best ever result against the All Blacks, holding them to a 10-10 draw, where despite tries by Sid Going and Alex Wyllie, Tom Kiernan’s Irish would again deny the All Blacks.
Five Grand Slams attempted, with none claimed.
But six years later that all changed.
On the 4th November 1978 in front over 50,000 Irishmen, Graham Mourie ran out with to face Shay Deering’s Ireland. Andy Haden scored the game’s only try, while Doug Bruce knocked over two very cheeky drop goals.
In their second match, they faced Wales - then Five Nations champions and Grand Slam winners, and it was no coincidence that it was the All Blacks toughest match. New Zealand were trailing at halftime but ultimately prevailing thanks to a Stu Wilson try, and three goals to replacement back Brian McKechnie.
A solid victory over England followed (thanks to tries from prop Brad Johnstone and lock Frank Oliver) by 16-6. On the 9th December 1978 the All Blacks celebrated their first ever Grand Slam, beating Scotland 18-9 in Murrayfield in front of nearly 70,000.
It was the fifth touring Slam achieved, the All Blacks first, while the Springboks had won four.
Having won their last in 1961, the South Africans have not won a Grand Slam since, but still boast the most of any Southern Hemisphere side.
The next All Blacks Grand Slam attempt came in 2005, when Tana Umaga led his almost unbeatable side (having won the Lions tour 3-0 as well as the Tri Nations and Bledisloe) to Europe.
Their first match against reigning Grand Slam champions Wales was close at halftime, with the All Blacks leading 13-3, but then the New Zealanders put on a 28 point unanswered second half, with Rico Gear scoring three tries, and Dan Carter scoring a double alongside five conversions and two penalties.
Against Ireland the following week, Coach Graham Henry famously rotated the entire starting XV, and the All Blacks didn’t miss a beat, winning 45-7.
England was the toughest match of tour, winning only 23-19, but the All Blacks did so with three yellow cards given to them throughout the match. Ultimately tries to Umaga and Keven Mealamu made the difference, and then the All Blacks defeated Scotland 29-10 to cap off a remarkable year with a record of 11 wins and just the solitary loss.
In 2008 it was Richie McCaw’s turn, who took his All Blacks on a four match sweep to record New Zealand’s third touring Slam.
It was the most comprehensive Grand Slam ever achieved, with the wins over Scotland (32-6), Ireland (22-3), Wales (29-9) and England (32-6) the only time that the home unions had been swept with winning margins of over 13+ points – for the record they were 26, 19, 20 and 26 point margins – and the only time a team had held the four sides try-less.
The All Blacks attempt in 2010 will see them try to claim their fourth Grand Slam, to equal the current record held by South Africa.
However, the Springboks will attempt a Grand Slam as well this year.
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