The Six Nations in a Rugby World Cup year
Does a good Championship equate to success on the game’s greatest stage?
Eight players, 22 seconds, that’s all it took to create a moment of rugby that has stood the test of time.
On Friday, 27 January, it will be 50 years to the day that Gareth Edwards scored THAT try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in Cardiff.
The move started by Phil Bennett’s razor-sharp sidesteps deep inside his 22 and finished by Wales half-back partner Edwards, still raises goosebumps now as it no doubt did back then for the people lucky enough to be there, in person, at the old Arms Park.
Following Bennett’s initial break, the ball went through the hands of JPR Williams and John Pullin before John Dawes and then Tom David took play into the New Zealand half.
At this point, Edwards was steaming up from the back like a thoroughbred racehorse, trying to make up lost ground.
“When I got into the pace of it, I started chasing where the ball was going and, it’s difficult to explain, but you could sense with the crowd too, that something was happening,” he said.
“As I looked on I could see when Tom and Derek (Quinnell) continued the movement, I was really having to turn the speed on to get there, and I shouted to Derek in Welsh, ‘throw it here’ … then it was just a run for the line.”
Had the try been scored in today’s era when ‘viral’ not ‘spiral’ is more commonly found in rugby’s vocabulary, the social media figures would have instantly gone through the roof.
As it is, the number of views on YouTube runs into the hundreds of thousands, with generations of rugby fans not even born when the try was scored still in awe at what they’re watching.
As TV commentator Cliff Morgan so eloquently put it, “if the greatest writer of the written word had written that story no one would have believed it.”
The roar of the crowd
For the try-scorer himself, one of his overriding memories was concern that his dodgy hamstrings might not hold out. “I remember thinking, please God, don’t go now, but by that time the roar of the crowd was pushing me on.”
Edwards’ try had got the match off to a dramatic start and the Barbarians went on to win 23-11, with Fergus Slattery, John Bevan and JPR Williams adding tries to Bennett’s two conversions and a penalty goal.
Sadly many of the Barbarians who played their part in one of the most-talked-about test matches of all time have recently passed away, Bennett included, but World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Edwards is still very much around to tell the tale in the latest issue of Rugby Journal.
“When I scored all I could think was, ‘I wish that it was the last minute because there’s going to be a reaction’.
It took a while for the All Blacks’ response to materialise as the Baa-Baas opened up a 17-0 lead, but back they came and one of the most pivotal moments, as far as Edwards was concerned came in defence not attack.
“There’s a moment when they are coming, coming and coming and Ian Kirkpatrick, who I rated as one of the best, dived over to score but (Irish prop) Ray McLoughlin, just got in his way and Kirkpatrick landed on top of him. Ray was so strong, and even the great Kirkpatrick, a prolific try-scorer, couldn’t ground the ball.
“I said it when Ray was alive (he passed away last year, aged 82), while you may celebrate the try, his contribution is every bit as important.”