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Ieuan Evans Recalls His Greatest Day As A Scarlet . . . And The Inspiration Of Ray Gravell

Ieuan Evans still remembers the rallying cry of Ray Gravell in the dressing room before Llanelli beat Australia. It was 1992 and the world champions were on tour in Wales.Evans had already seen Swansea beat the Wallabies, but the tourists had recovered to beat Wales B and Neath before they arrived at Stradey Park. The match – which is being re-shown by S4C on Saturday evening – proved to be another red letter day in the Scarlets’ rich history as Evans recalls:

“There’s so much history against international opponents at Stradey. I remember the first match I played against Australia in 1984, when we beat them.

It was great to have a chance to do it again in 1992, especially as they were the world champions

The club has a proud record against international teams, that famous win against New Zealand of course, with Roy Bergiers’ try and the packed stadium. And it was similar for this match in 1992.

Australia picked a strong team, and the game was being played on a Saturday, not midweek like in ‘84.

They gave Ireland a thumping and it was the same pack who turned up against us, so it showed what they thought of this game. They knew about the history.

And it was important for us to create a hostile atmosphere. I’ve been on international tours, and international teams are more comfortable playing in big stadiums, rather than small grounds.

The crowd is so close to you and the atmosphere is electric. The support we received was crucial that day – it’s so much harder to silence a smaller ground, than a big international stadium.

There was something special about that day, and there was something special about a club side playing against the world champions.

Building up to the match, Grav came into the changing room – he wanted to be out there playing! He had a chat with us before the game, after the game – I don’t think he was allowed in at half time!

 

He was living it. With Grav, everything came from the heart. He understood the situation, he knew what to say and how to say it. The club meant so much to him, and to have someone speak like that before the match, that’s exactly what we needed.

The town and the whole area had been talking about this game for a long time, and everyone was nervous, you had to be.

I was there in ’84, and I remember ’72, my dad was there, but I was listening to it on the radio, and you wanted to create those stories.

We were a strong team and we’d had an incredible season. We won the cup and the league, and we beat Australia – you can’t get a much better hat-trick than that.

We had a lot of experience and international players in that team and we didn’t just run it from everywhere, we played with variation, and that’s how we played against Australia.

We ran at them, played the kicking game – Colin Stephens had a fantastic game, he stamped his authority on the game from fly-half, which was a big factor in us winning.

Swansea had a strong team at that time too, and after seeing them beat Australia, we knew he had to do it, too.

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But when we saw the team that Australia picked, we thought – this is going to be an even bigger challenge! That pack had torn Ireland apart in Landsdowne Road.

But you can’t hide from it, that’s the challenge and you have to respond. I would have liked if Wales would have responded the week after, but that didn’t happen! I was captain of Wales then and we weren’t quite good enough that day.

We knew we had a chance. The international teams were preparing for international games, and in the middle there’s a game against the Scarlets – they don’t want it.

We had Gareth Jenkins and Allan Lewis coaching us. They knew what they wanted us to do, and what Australia wouldn’t want us to do.

It was 7-6 at half time, a tight game. We knew at half time, we were in the game and they were not comfortable.

We had a good team, just look at our back-row – Mark Perego, Lyn Jones, Emyr Lewis – forwards who could handle the ball well.

At the end of the game, they were attacking, attacking, but it was important that we had the ability to counter-attack and get round them, and let the crowd know that Llanelli aren’t just here to defend.

That try was the flash that was needed to spark the crowd. We’d practiced the move all week.

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We called it the ‘Ella’, because it was developed by Mark Ella and the Ella brothers back in the 80s, and we used it against them, so that was something special, too.

And it worked perfectly. We’d worked and worked on it. Simon Davies ran towards the defence and they stood still waiting for him, and Colin slipped me the pass, and I went through the gap, past Timmy Horan – it was all about the timing.

It showed Australia that we could play. And Colin Stephens, two drop goals to win the game, and to control his emotions to be able to do that was immense.

Afterwards, you see the crowd run on and you think, I’d like a cwtch but I’ve got to go, so I ran off as quick as I could. But the noise was thunderous at the end of the game.

The proudest moment of my career was captaining my country, but to have games like that for my club during the time I was there is special.

It’s about the area, about the town. It’s something quite unique. We were in the changing room for quite a while, because it’s important that we as a team enjoy the moment.

We went up later to see our families and the supporters, and because it was a Saturday afternoon, no one was rushing off. It’s important to enjoy those moments, because they go quickly.”

Watch Clwb Rygbi: Llanelli v Awstralia, at 6.15pm on Saturday on S4C, and on demand at S4C Clic. English subtitles available.

 

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