It’s probably the most repeated try in rugby history. But ‘what happened next?’ as they say. Harri Morgan – born some time towards the end of the following decade – decided to watch the entire Seventies classic of the Barbarians v the All Blacks as the next part of mission to ‘re-live’ matches that occurred well before he was born. This is what he discovered.
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‘If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story, no one would have believed it.’ – Cliff Morgan#AudiovisualHeritageDay
📽️ Gareth Edwards scoring ‘the greatest try ever scored’. Barbarians v New Zealand, 1973 pic.twitter.com/rkCpwRDIrD
— World Rugby Museum (@wrugbymuseum) October 27, 2019
“This is Gareth Edwards – a dramatic start – what a score!”
The immortal words of commentator Cliff Morgan as Gareth Edwards dived over in the left corner at the Taff End of the national stadium to send the Barbarians into an early lead against Ian Kirkpatrick’s seventh All Blacks.
A try that is known throughout the rugby world, an iconic moment in the history of rugby union and even sport itself.
But, then what? I decided to take a look.
If the modern day haka is executed with the precision of a Broadway show, then the dance produced by Kirkpatrick’s men in Cardiff on 27th January, 1973 was more akin to the nativity play at the local infant school.
That said, the tourists face the crowd as they lay down their challenge. It is extremely well received by a raucous crowd, who are anticipating a classic.
Barbarians fixtures today are more like exhibitions than Test matches, not just on the field but also in the stands.
The crowds expect to see a fixture played in the ‘Barbarian spirit’, and will often boo in dissatisfaction if either team opt to kick for the sticks.
Ironically, this Barbarian spirit often conjures up imagery of the ’73 edition, but this game is no exhibition.
The rugby is expansive, but the result is paramount. Both sides regularly elect to kick for goal, and on no occasion is this adversely received by the spectators.
It is, in fact, via a penalty goal that the Barbarians – entirely made up of players from Britain and Ireland – extend their lead to seven points some half hour subsequent to that ‘dramatic start’.
The Barbarians are in the ascendancy throughout the first half. They go close when a Gareth Edwards break from a tap penalty leads to some Harlem Globetrotters-type interplay before the All Blacks’ scramble defence defuses the situation.
John Bevan comes close to being the beneficiary of another piece of free flowing link play, this time initiated by English wing three-quarter, David Duckham.
His fellow wing, Bevan, is hauled down by a desperate tackle as he made for the corner.
Cliff Morgan says the tackler won’t make a more important one if he plays until he is 100 – again impressing on me the magnitude of the fixture.
The invitational side think they have extended their lead after another play initiated by Duckham, who’s swerve, step and dummy are right at home in the Arms Park.
However, John Dawes’ touchdown is disallowed following a forward pass in the build-up.
From the ensuing scrum, the ball squirts out, and as Edwards tussles with his opposite, Sid Going, it is Fergus Slattery who pounces on the loose ball to dive over to extend the Lions’ – sorry, Barbarians’ – lead to 11 points.
Make that 13 as Phil Bennett nudges over the conversion.
The game is frentic, rucks are few and far between with ball carriers off-loading with a Sonny Bill regularity.
New Zealand’s kicking game is ordinary and the Baa Baas’ back three are only happy to make hay whilst the sun shines.
The ‘home’ side finish the half perfectly. Turning over the ball in the vistors’ 25 after an inaccurate off-load, the ball is sent through the hands in a textbook manner to find Bevan, who deals with all three would-be tacklers to score in the corner.
Cliff informs the viewer that Bevan is only playing because Gerald Davies had ‘cried off’ that morning’. Not a phrase I have ever much liked, but if it’s okay for Cliff then who am I to argue?
So, 17 to zip at the break.
The tourists come out for the second-half intent on having their say.
But Kirkpatrick drops the ball with the line at his mercy from a speculative inside kick.
Morgan, ever the gent on comms, lauds Kirkpatrick for his workrate to be in position rather than lambasting the drop. All class.
It is 17-3 when full-back Joe Karam accurately toe-pokes the ball through the sticks following an indiscretion.
The crowd are loving life. I’m pretty sure they give Auld Lang Syne a run out in the second-half – a nice touch – but not a patch on the sound of hearing ‘I bob un sydd ffyddlon’ reverberating round the stands in the opening stanza.
It’s been 45 years since Gareth Edwards scored “that try” playing for @Barbarian_FC against New Zealand and we are delighted to be able to display the signed ball from that match in our Barbarians gallery.https://t.co/M0cfd6a0zJ pic.twitter.com/Q2DYqJFQ3i
— World Rugby Museum (@wrugbymuseum) May 25, 2018
It makes the recent criticism of the atmosphere at the Principality Stadium from certain quarters, easier to fathom.
The score is 17-7 when B.G. Williams does a knife through butter job on the Barbarians’ defensive line before feeding his fellow wing-man, Grant Batty, who dots down.
The pace of the two wide man plays a key role in the All Blacks’ resurgence.
They also have a role to play at line-out time, as it is they, rather than their hooker, who lob it in.
The Barbarians have the set-up we would recognise as normal today, with John Pullin chucking in.
Not that having the throw is too much of an advantage. The line-outs certainly lack a bit of social distancing.
It is Batty again, as the All Blacks cut the deficit to six points with 10 minutes remaining.
The No.11 does Dawes on the outside before chipping over JPR to score.
The crowd don’t know whether to applaud or jeer Batty, who had been involved in a scuffle with debutant Tommy David some moments earlier. They end up doing a bit of both.
The Barbarians, who at times look like they might have punched themselves out with their first half display, are able to muster up the magic one more time, to take the game beyond their opponents.
Duckham again ducks and dives before being dumped in midfield. The ball is fed out to Mike Gibson, who breaks the line before finding countryman Fergus Slattery who slips it to crowd hero Williams – ‘John’ to Cliff Morgan or JPR to you and I – who crosses at the town end for a four pointer.
A dramatic start . . . a classic game.