Gareth: The Greatest Player Ever to Pick Up an Oval Ball - Bar None; We Need Your Help in Deciding Who the Most Influential People Are in the Past 100 Years of Welsh History in the Fields of Politics, Health, Music, Literature, Art, Sport and Business. the Seven You Select Will Be Crowned Our St David's Day Icons. in Our Final Profile, Rugby Writer Delme Parfitt Argues Why Gareth Edwards Should Be Our St David's Day Icon for Sport

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 24, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Gareth: The Greatest Player Ever to Pick Up an Oval Ball - Bar None; We Need Your Help in Deciding Who the Most Influential People Are in the Past 100 Years of Welsh History in the Fields of Politics, Health, Music, Literature, Art, Sport and Business. the Seven You Select Will Be Crowned Our St David's Day Icons. in Our Final Profile, Rugby Writer Delme Parfitt Argues Why Gareth Edwards Should Be Our St David's Day Icon for Sport


* IVEN that he peaked during an era of so many Welsh players who would go on to become legends in their own right, it says much about the stratospheric quality of Gareth Edwards that he is still widely classed today, around the world, as the greatest ever to pick up an oval ball.

Every rugby fan will have their favourite Gareth (surname not required) moment, but there are arguably two that stand out when the old BBC clips, complete with the inimitable commentary tones of Bill McClaren then Cliff Morgan, get an airing.

The first is his try against Scotland in the 1972 Five Nations game at the Arms Park, when, after running 70m to score he walked back to his own half caked in red mud from the stadium's dog track.

"The sheer magic of Gareth Edwards has brought the whole of this stadium to its feet," McClaren enthused.

It was impossible in that moment to know just how iconic that piece of play, and the images that accompanied it, would become.

And then of course there is January 1973, when Gareth was back at his theatre of dreams but this time in Barbarians colours.

New Zealand were in town wanting revenge for the 1971 Lions series defeat and with the Baa-Baas side containing many who had helped inflict it, there was a tangible edge to a fixture more renowned for friendly exhibitionism.

When Phil Bennett ran back towards his own line to field an innocuous looking All Blacks kick upfield, an orthodox clearance to touch looked the most feasible option.

Bennett had other ideas, and in the split second he decided just to have a go at what was in front of him, a score referred to simply as "that try" was born.

A stunning salvo of sidesteps saw the Scarlets fly-half evade three tackles, and the ball went through the hands of JPR Williams, Irish hooker John Pulin, and Welsh tyros John Dawes, Tom David and Derek Quinnell.

Was Quinnell's offload to Edwards forward? In today's pernickety world of referee assessors and every camera angle Archimedes could have dreamt of, Edwards would probably have been called back.

Thank heavens French official George Domercq was in forgiving mood.

"This is Gareth Edwards, a dramatic start! What a score," boomed Morgan, as Edwards hurtled in at the corner, his hamstrings having had the required elasticity to get him home.

It is a timeless piece of sporting drama, one which for even those who were not old enough to witness in the flesh is still enough to send a tingle down the spine.

And it has an emotional impact on people that politics, the arts, music, literature, have an almost impossible task in matching.

Both the above-mentioned tries are testimony to the sublime mix of skill, game awareness, durability and strength that meant Gareth, in his pomp, was without peer.

We are forced to be selective because there are simply too many others to mention.

During a decade when Wales buckled under the strain of economic hardship, Edwards, with the aid of so many stellar team mates, provided the ultimate escape route.

Between 1967 and 1978, this son of a miner from Gwaun-cae-Gurwen won 53 caps for his country in days when the international season wasn't as crammed with fixtures as it is now.

And his partnership with Barry John on that tumultuous 1971 tour of New Zealand, was much to do with Barry's star briefly soaring to the point where he might as well have been the fifth Beatle.

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Gareth: The Greatest Player Ever to Pick Up an Oval Ball - Bar None; We Need Your Help in Deciding Who the Most Influential People Are in the Past 100 Years of Welsh History in the Fields of Politics, Health, Music, Literature, Art, Sport and Business. the Seven You Select Will Be Crowned Our St David's Day Icons. in Our Final Profile, Rugby Writer Delme Parfitt Argues Why Gareth Edwards Should Be Our St David's Day Icon for Sport
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