Try (rugby)

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In rugby union, a try is the main way of scoring points. To score a try, the ball must be touched down over the opposing team’s touchline. Today, a try is worth five points.

Cardiff Arms Park, 1973, and the touring “All Blacks” played the Barbarians in the last match of their tour in one of the most exciting matches of all time. The first try of that match, twenty four seconds from Phil Bennett first touching the ball to Gareth Edwards touching down, has been called the “greatest try ever”.

The All Blacks, the New Zealand national team and the best in the world, were playing the Barbarians – a side assembled for this match from English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish players.

The sequence of play (See video subpage) started with the Barbarian full back, JPR Williams, making one of his typical attacking runs from deep in defense; this time however he ran into trouble. He was tackled high as he kicked for space, leaving him out of position. The ball was fielded by the All Black scrum half Sid Going and fed out to the right winger Bryan Williams, who kicked the ball long towards the Barbarian touch line, into space left by the absence of JPR Williams. It was a well-judged kick, falling behind fly-half Phil Bennett who was the last defender, and the ball bounced awkwardly. Bennett, running back, gathered the ball just in front of his own posts, chased hotly by four All Black players. This was not a good position; outnumbered, if he was tackled the ball would go to the All Blacks for an easy try; he could cross his own touchline and touch down, but this would concede a 5-metre scrum under the posts, which given the strength of the All Black scrum would also carry a high risk of a try.

With no time or space to kick, Bennett decided to run with the ball. With jinks and an extravagant sidestep, he eluded four All Blacks who were converging on him, holding the ball long enough for other defenders to arrive in support. As a fifth All Black came to tackle him, he passed back to JPR Williams who had returned to his line. Bennett had taken five All Blacks out, but Bryan Williams, following up his kick, immediately tackled JPR Williams – another high tackle. In the tackle, JPR Williams slipped a pass to hooker John Pullin. Pullin now had room and teammates in support, and Bryan Williams was out of his defensive position, leaving room on the Barbarians’ left wing. Pullin ran with the ball, waiting for the Barbarian backs to fall into position to his left, then passed left to centre John Dawes. As another All Black came tearing across field, anticipating that Dawes would pass left to the winger John Bevan who was alongside him, Dawes sold him a dummy pass. Instead of passing left, Dawes, raced on with the ball. He ran diagonally infield to create more room outside for the attackers on his left, but then passed right to loose forward Tom David, wrong-footing the defence who were running across to cover the gaps. Tom David ran further infield, drawing two All Blacks into tackling him. In the tackle, he passed, one- handed left again to number 8 Derek Quinnell. Quinnell had to reach forward while running to gather the ball at his feet, and, stumbling, he passed it one handed left again to scrum half Gareth Edwards. Edwards took the ball at speed, accelerated further, burst past Joe Karam, outstripped the chasing Bruce Robertson and then dived full length through a desperate covering tackle from Grant Batty to score in the left hand corner.

"I have never run so fast on a rugby pitch," Edwards recalls. "I timed my run from about 50 yards out and, when I took the pass, I was in a full sprinting stride, moving like never before. When I got past Joe Karam I had just one thought in my mind, the advice of my schoolboy rugby mentor, Bill Samuel, who insisted you were much more difficult to stop when you dived full out. I have never scored a try to such deafening applause. It all happened so quickly I didn't really know how good a movement it had been." [1]

Clem Thomas, commentating live for the BBC, said "If the greatest writer, of the written word, had written that story, no-one would have believed it. That really was something."


  1. Barbarians' classic score still sets the standard ‘’Telegraph’’ 23 Jan 2003