Flashback: The greatest try of all time

Date published: January 25 2017

Gareth Edwards scored what is to this day known as the 'Greatest Try of all Time' when the Barbarians beat New Zealand 23-11 in Cardiff.

January 27, 1973

The Barbarians played the All Blacks in Cardiff in what would be known as the 'Match of the Century' after an epic clash between the two sides. The Barbarians scored four tries to New Zealand's two, both of New Zealand's were dotted down by legendary All Black winger Grant Batty.

New Zealand were already under pressure after drawing 10-10 to Ireland and losing to France 13-6 just before the invitational game. The tourists desperately needed a win to quell the unrest back in New Zealand amongst their supporters.

However, it wouldn't be a resounding victory for New Zealand, not for them anyway as the Barbarians pulled off a legendary performance.

Gareth Edwards scored the 'Greatest Try Ever' in that game. 

"I defy anybody to name a more breathtaking, more stunning, or more cutely-conceived try than the Barbarians' first one in the third minute. It could not have had more innocent beginnings as Phil Bennett fielded a kick from Bryan Williams ten yards from his own line. Bennett, weaving and dancing, first backwards and then sideways, avoided three All Blacks In a piece of pure poetry. He went to the left and John Pullin, the hooker, linked up. John Williams came in on cue next, and around the half-way line Dawes, Tom David and Derek Quinnell stepped up the momentum with a horde of All Blacks frenziedly chasing back. This was the moment for Gareth Edwards to contribute the crushing finale to the finest move," Chris Lander of the Daily Mirror.

BBC pundit Cliff Morgan described it as a work of art.

"Oh, that fellow Edwards. If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story, no-one would have believed it. That really was something."

Edwards himself commented on the try and explained why he believed it was so incredible.

"Why it transcends rugby is the improvisation, and the skill factor, under pressure, that was shown in the try. Because when the move started, nobody, bar nobody, myself included, was thinking about a try."

The passing and handling skills of the players were immaculate as they went through six pairs of hands before eventually reaching the nuggety number nine who would score the try. Phil Bennett took the kick from the air before starting the play that would then see John Williams, John Pullin, John Dawes, Tom David and eventually Derek Quinnell who would pass the ball wide to Edwards who scored.

Welsh fly-half Bennet told the Guardian how he was lucky his team mates knew he might play the ball instead of kicking for touch.

"It happened in a flash. And all of a sudden I thought, 'It's on'. I was lucky that JPR was at full-back, because I knew he loved counter-attacking. I knew his first thoughts would be 'What's on here?', just the same as mine, So I threw him a long pass," said Bennet.

Quinell added: "I knew what Benny was like, because I'd played with him since I was 11 at Coleshill Secondary Modern. I could tell just by the way he was standing when something was afoot. And when I saw him twirl the ball in his hands I thought, 'He's going to run this. I'd better get back there.' And off he set."

But Edwards insists that the game wasn't only about that try and that all in all it was a fantastic match.

"People tend only to remember the first four minutes of the game because of the try, but what they forgot is the great deal of good rugby played afterwards, much of which came from the All Blacks," said Edwards.

"For us after the success of the 1971 Lions tour, which captured the imagination of the whole country, it was an opportunity to bring a lot of that side together again."

Gareth Edwards with Phil Bennett, the Barbarian half-back pairing during the reunion party for the 1973 Barbarians held in London on January 28, 2003.

The scorers:

For the Barbarians:
Edwards, Slattery, Bevan, Williams
Cons: Bennett 2
Pens: Bennett

For New Zealand:
Batty 2
Pens: Karam

Barbarians: 15 John Williams (Wales), 14 David Duckham (England), 13 John Dawes (c) (Wales), 12 Mike Gibson (Ireland), 11 John Bevan (Wales), 10 Phil Bennett (Wales), 9 Gareth Edwards (Wales), 8 Derek Quinnell (Wales), 7 Fergus Slattery (Ireland), 6 Tom David (Wales), 5 Bob Wilkinson (England), 4 Willie John McBride (Ireland), 3 Sandy Carmichael (Scotland), 2 John Pullin (England), 1 Ray McLoughlin (Ireland)

New Zealand: 15 Joe Karam, 14 Bryan Williams, 13 Bruce Robertson, 12 Ian Hurst, 11 Grant Batty, 10 Bob Burgess, 9 Sid Going, 8 Alex Wyllie, 7 Ian Kirkpatrick(c), 6 Alistair Scown, 5 Hamish Macdonald, 4 Peter Whiting, 3 Kent Lambert, 2 Ron Urlich, 1 Graham Whiting

Photo credit: Barbarianfc.co.uk