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Henderson recalls Lions master class

allblacks.com in Invercargill     21 Jun 2005    

But memories of that first 80 minutes have never left him.

“I remember John Rutherford the Lions five-eighth,” Henderson told allblacks.com. “There was about 20 minutes to go and being a boy amongst men I was struggling big-time. John picked me up after a ruck and in that broad Scottish accent of his said ‘C’mon young fella... keep going, keep going!’

“He would’ve known it was my first game and here’s the opposition first-five helping me along. Quite wicked, isn’t it. I’ve carried that message myself in the heat of battle a few times since.”

The Lions dispatched Southland 41-3 at Rugby Park that day, although the score matters little now to the ex All Blacks No 7.

“The red shirts, the accents, the anthems being sung... wonderful memories. Even before the game... there was a guy down here called Paul Cosgrove who was the big toughie in town. He was also making his debut - at loosehead prop against Graham Price.

“I was the meat inspector at the local freezing works and here’s Cosgrove pulling a great big ram off the chain two days before the game and giving the thing an absolute flogging - with 1200 guys watching and banging their knives,” Henderson laughs. “He was walking around with it saying ‘This is what I’m going to do to the legend Graham Price.’

“But match day, Mr G. Price was just doing macramé or whatever it’s called - folding Cozzie up into little bundles every scrum. He took an absolutely pasting.”

Henderson played the Lions again a decade later in 1993, when the score was a slightly more competitive 34-16 loss. Yet this local lad still can’t help thinking Sir Clive may be underestimating his old team colours.

“No question. We’ve got our Jimmy Cowans and Clarke Dermodys, so if those second-stringers don’t go out onto Rugby Park pumped up a little it could be a tight match. The collective way New Zealanders play - our continuity - is where these Lions are vulnerable. But if you become an individual against international sides they will pick you up and roll you.

“If Southland can do that tonight - play a true team game - we might be in for a little bit of a show. It’ll be the boilover the century... mind you, the century’s only five years old!”

With ‘Ginge’s’ own proud southern history and twin brother David coaching the Southland side for the first time, the game is well and truly a family affair. Paul has no doubts the genes are there to do the job.

“David’s dealt with the pressures of the corporate world and captained Southland as well, so he’ll handle things well. He’s not out of his depth at all.”

Pack down with allblacks.com tonight for a full British & Irish Lions v Southland match report