The secret Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards carried into historical event that will trade issues for just right

March 18, 1978 — for Welsh rugby there hasn’t ever been an afternoon relatively find it irresistible, prior to or since.

It yielded a Five Nations Grand Slam with crimson ribbons tied round it, nevertheless it additionally marked the departure of 2 Wales carrying icons from the world level.

Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett had been each bowing out from the Test scene. All-time greats, the pair of them. Never to be noticed in world rugby once more.

The 1000’s of Welsh lovers who emptied from the Arms Park stands and terraces onto the streets of Cardiff celebrating a 3rd Five Nations blank of the seventies would had been blissfully unaware that at that very second there was once a quiet dialog happening inside of the house converting room which was once to mark a pivotal second in Welsh rugby.

Read extra: The untold Phil Bennett tales that display the kindness of a Wales legend

Sadly, Bennett kicked the bucket this week. On listening to the inside track, many would have in all probability allowed themselves to be mentally transported again to that spring day greater than 4 a long time in the past, when the post-match information precipitated any such sharp consumption of breath.

Between them, the half-backs performed 82 Tests for Wales and 18 for the British and Irish Lions, nevertheless it was once the indelible moments of magic — the Benny sidestep, the Edwards kick and chase, the wonderful dive within the dust — that can stay within the reminiscence.

Now they had been going without delay, after Wales had noticed off a powerful French workforce 16-7 to protected the name of Europe’s highest workforce for but some other yr. But their choices had been taken independently.

“I knew it was going to be my last game, but I didn’t tell anyone beforehand,” Bennett as soon as recalled.

“I didn’t need this recreation to be about me. This was once an excellent Welsh workforce, we had simply completed the triple Triple Crown and had been going for a 2d Grand Slam in two years. So there was once no giant farewell to the gang or the rest like that.

“Afterwards, I walked into the converting room and I went as much as Gareth and stated thank you for the whole thing and he answered: “You’re getting out as smartly. Me too’.”

Gareth Edwards drops a objective towards France in 1978

And that was once the top of the Edwards-Bennett double act, one who had sprinkled stardust throughout international rugby within the crimson of Wales and the Lions.

“I remember coming off the field and Jean-Pierre Rives, the great French flanker, came up to me and said: ‘well played you old fox, you got the better of us today, but maybe next year in Paris it is my turn’,” Edwards remembered.

“I just remember thinking next year in Paris was a long, long time away.

“And in Wales there is always the next challenge, we are never satisfied, we had just won another Grand Slam and someone was patting me on the back saying: ‘Right it’s Australia now in the summer, then if we beat New Zealand in November and after that South Africa we can be champions of the world’.

“We were still amateurs, we worked hard away from rugby and it was also time to give back to the people who had sacrificed so much for us and spend time with the family. I was also conscious of not going on for that season too many. It was a strange feeling, but it just felt it was the right time.”

Bennett had stated of his retirement: “It was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I remember going to the Arms Park with Llanelli schoolboys and being in awe of the place. It was something special and I loved playing there.

“But I knew the time was right to finish. I had two young children and wanted to spend more time with the family.

“I was also a big boxing fan and had seen a number of fighters just stay on for that one fight too many — I didn’t want that.

“These days, you retire and it’s all over the press, it dominates the build-up to matches, but there was nothing like that. I just went back into the changing room, I think I told Gareth and maybe John Dawes as well. That was it.”

Wales’ 1978 Grand Slam workforce that performed France

Digging deep for historical past

Wales had limped into the championship finale after a bruising 20-16 victory over a fired-up Ireland in Dublin.

“The boys were tired,” admitted Bennett, Wales’ captain again then. “There is talk these days about Lions fatigue, but we were coming off the back of three months in New Zealand in 1977, I think we played something like 26 matches down there and it took its toll.

“The Ireland game was brutal. We had beaten them well two years earlier and they were out for revenge, they had four Lions in the pack themselves and they took no prisoners that day, with boots going in, everything. Our pack stood toe to toe with them and we got the win and the triple Triple Crown, the first time that had been achieved.

“But coming back in the changing room after the final whistle, it wasn’t a scene of jubilation or anything like that. You had boys having treatment, boys with their jerseys ripped.

“We had France next up and in the week before the match we trained at the Afan Lido in Port Talbot, as we did back then. We were a shambles, dropping balls and we couldn’t do anything, so John Dawes, our coach, just told us to go home and rest up.”

Wales won the Grans Slam against France that day
Wales received the Grans Slam towards France that day

Awaiting Wales in Cardiff had been a French workforce in quest of Grand Slam good fortune themselves, a facet that boasted one of the feared packs within the recreation.

“We were up against some of the greatest players to have pulled on the French jersey — Robert Paparemborde, Alain Paco, Gerard Cholley, two bruisers in the second row — France always picked hard men in the second row — and that legendary back row of Jean-Pierre Rives, Jean-Claude Skrela and giant No. 8 Jean-Pierre Bastiat,” Bennett had stated.

“They also had this young kid at scrum-half in Jerome Gallion who was going to be the next big thing.”

Fittingly, it was once Bennett and Edwards who starred, the skipper accumulating a brace of first-half tries with Edwards including a excellent drop objective.

But this wasn’t an all-singing, all-dancing finale. This was once a victory constructed on dogged decision. Wales needed to tricky it out to protected their Slam.

Phil Bennett goes over for his first try despite the attentions of France's Jerome Gallion to secure Wales their Grand Slam triumph in 1978
Phil Bennett is going over for his first take a look at regardless of the attentions of France’s Jerome Gallion to protected Wales their Grand Slam triumph in 1978

“We were hanging on in there in the second half,” Bennett prior to now stated.

“I remember we got the boys together in a huddle and at the same time the crowd, as if sensing we could do with a lift, erupted into song. We just said: ‘We can’t lose this today, boys’. And we hung on for the win.”

“They were a tough side,” added Edwards. “Phil scored two great tries, I dropped a goal and Steve Fenwick did the same in the second half, but we weren’t at our best and it was a case of digging deep in that second half.

“The French were an uncompromising side, tough men, with a legendary back row. But we were strong mentally, we knew how to win.”

In his post-match press convention, Dawes proclaimed: “This workforce merits to be recognised as the best of all time.”

The sentiments may have been the similar when it got here to describing his two departing half-backs.

Leave a Comment