The 1950 British Lions came to New Zealand in sparkling fashion. The old navy blue uniform (which had forced the 1930 All Blacks to play in white) was now a distinctive bright red.

There was also the aim for bright rugby, something that New Zealanders were to appreciate after the dour days of 1949 when four tests in South Africa and two in New Zealand were lost.

Some of the Lions came to New Zealand with ready-made reputations.

Bleddyn Williams and Jackie Matthews were the legendary Welsh midfield combination.

Jackie Kyle, the complete first fiveeighths, had already played against the Kiwis. Ken Jones was the classical wing-threequarter, fast enough for an Olympic relay silver medal, and stepped aside from the Wales athletics team for the 1950 Empire Games at Auckland so he could be available for the Lions tour.

The forwards were led by the tour captain, Karl Mullen, the hooker, and had two outstanding locks, Roy John and Peter Kininmonth.

With their backline skill, improved when Lewis Jones, a 19-year-old utility back, joined the side as a replacement, the Lions from the start tried an open and adventurous style.

In many cases they played thrilling and winning rugby, notably 32-9 against Auckland before 45,000 spectators at Eden Park, 16-5 against Canterbury and 25-3 against Taranaki.

However, the Lions' forward play often did not measure well against the rugged, rucking style of the New Zealand sides. They started with three comfortable wins, but lost to Otago and Southland. They struck back in the first test at Carisbrook, leading 6-0 and then 9-6 before the All Blacks gained a 9-all draw with a last-minute try by Ron Elvidge.

The All Blacks won a dull second test at Christchurch, but the third test was an heroic affair. John Simpson, the iron-man All Black prop, injured a knee in the 20th minute and just before halftime Elvidge went off with a gashed head and damaged collarbone.

With Peter Johnstone posted to the wing, the All Blacks had only six forwards, but they never let the Lions forwards take control.

The 41,000 spectators cheered when Elvidge came back to play as a roving back and then erupted when he appeared outside Johnstone and dived over for the try to take the All Blacks to 3-all. Bob Scott sealed the win with a penalty goal.

There were 58,000 people cheering as the All Blacks worked out to an 11- 3 lead in the fourth test at Eden Park.

Still, they cheered again when Lewis Jones broke from his own goal-line, and fed Ken Jones at halfway which gave the Welsh sprinter a stirring dash to the try (converted) between the posts.

Down 8-11, the Lions twice made raids to within yards of the All Black line, but could not score.

However, they completed a marvelous tour. They reacted splendidly to local hospitality, they signed autographs and visited hospitals, they did not complain at injuries and setbacks, they represented everything that was good and wholesome and traditional about British rugby.

They did not win a test, but are still rightly regarded as the favourite Lions team to tour New Zealand.

* Don Cameron joined the Herald in 1950 and was chief rugby writer from 1979 until 1989