Gareth Edwards – the Greatest Try


History on 27th January

Gareth Edwards – the Greatest Try

Cardiff, South Wales The 27th of January 1973 AD

Sport all too often brings the ridiculous and only rarely produces the sublime: moments of poetic physical genius that transcend the very games in which they are played. Even someone who has never previously watched a minute of rugby could see the video of Gareth Edwards’ try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks and appreciate the skill, the adventure, and the beauty of those few seconds.
To call it a counter-attacking try is to do it scant justice. A kick ahead by the All Blacks bounced nastily, leaving fly-half Phil Bennett retreating to collect the ball about five yards from his own line. He runs round to face a wall of black shirts, sidesteps a flanker then a centre, and with a pass cuts out another looming opponent. It’s JPR Williams the full-back in support who then makes a few yards and offloads as his namesake Brian, the Blacks’ 14, makes a high tackle (about 20 seconds earlier a New Zealand forward made an equally unpleasant neck-tackle on the same player). John Pullin, the English captain - the only non-Welshman in the move (perhaps for some at Cardiff Arms Park that day ever so slightly spoiling the purity of the thing) makes some ground then shifts it left to centre Dawes who by cutting right makes space again, passes inside to back row forward Tom David, he passes to Derek Quinnell who almost falling over takes, stumbles and passes with one hand seemingly to thin air as scrum-half Gareth Edwards who has screamed for the ball appears from nowhere to catch it and with pace makes the line, finishing with a dive to ensure he is not tackled out of play near the flag.
Cliff Morgan’s commentary is marvellous, the rising tone of his line: “What a score!” etched on rugby’s folk memory. Immediately afterwards Morgan comments on the greatness of the try, saying the finest writer in the world couldn’t have created such a story and been believed. And he was of course quite right.
For the record, the Barbarians went on to win 23 – 11, outscoring the Kiwis by four tries to two.

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