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Phil Bennett Side-Steps Past Scott Gibbs . . . And Gets Over The Line

By David Roberts

He’s only gone and done it again!

Back in 2007, Phil Bennett’s marvellous try against Scotland at Murrayfield won the BBC Wales vote for the best Welsh try in the Five or Six Nations and now it has come out on top once more in the Welsh Rugby Union’s ‘Greatest Ever Welsh Try’ competition.

The Llanelli outside-half featured twice in a try that began at a breakdown in the Welsh 22 and ended up with what Bill McLaren described in commentary as “the try of the Championship”.

More than that, it clinched another Triple Crown.

In all four rounds of the WRU competition to find the best of 16 great Welsh tries, Benny’s side-stepping delight came out on top in every contest.

In the final, Scott Gibbs’ iconic score at Wembley against England in 1999 had to settle for second best.

One of the ultimate stars of the ‘Super Seventies’, Bennett accounted for Allan Bateman in the first round, Shane Williams in the second and Justin Tipuric in the semi-final.

The final was a real heavyweight clash, but Benny proved ‘West in Best’ as the ‘Turk’ beat the ‘Jack’ with more than 60% of the votes cast.

 

Phil Bennett on his winning try from 1977

I didn’t score that many tries for Wales. I got one against Ireland at Lansdowne Road and then two against France in 1978 when we won the Grand Slam, but they were both five yarders.

So, the try against Scotland is the one that gets talked about the most when I meet people.

It clinched the Triple Crown and in those days the Triple Crown was more of a respected achievement than perhaps it is today.

Wales were going through some times economically back at that time. Factories and mines were closing and people were losing their jobs.

Yet, the commitment to watching Wales play was incredible. I can remember on Saturday morning in Edinburgh, standing on a balcony in our team hotel and looking up along the length of Princes Street.

There was a sea of supporters, dressed in red shirts or scarves, or rosettes, all who had made the long trip up. I realised how much effort they had gone through and I thought, ‘we can’t let these people down’.

The try itself is still memorable. Andy Irvine kicked the ball away to JPR and I thought, ‘he’s made a mistake there.’

Gerald Davies produced some magical sidesteps, beat three or four men, and put me into a bit of space. I had David Burcher outside, found him, and he floated a beautiful high pass back inside to Steve Fenwick.

 

Steve took man and ball, but, incredibly, got the ball away back to me. I had two guys in front of me and managed to beat them both with a step.

One of them was the great Ian ‘Mighty Mouse’ McLauchlan. He was a hard man, was Mouse, who loved scrummaging and I was shocked to see him back near his own 22 trying to cover.

Thankfully, they bought the dummy and I was away to the posts. People asked whether it was a pose with the ball under my chin, but it truly wasn’t. I was knackered – and relieved – and I could look up and see red being waved by people in the stands.

My other memory of that weekend was on the Sunday, when we got on the team bus for the airport.

Nearby, you could the Wales fans getting onto buses and into cars, and one group of boys climbing with mattresses into the back of a Welsh company’s removal van. That’s what it meant to them to watch Wales – a nine-hour drive in the back of a removal van.

 

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