Phil Bennett: The day Llanelli beat the All Blacks was the greatest in my career
I WILL always hold the day we beat the All Blacks as the greatest in my rugby career — a victory achieved by passion, pride and preparation that had begun long before we took the field on that memorable Stradey Park afternoon.
The great Wilson Whineray, the former New Zealand captain, recently passed away and I remember watching him lead the All Blacks side of 1963 out at Stradey and wondering at the time, how could this side be beaten.
New Zealand are a magnificent rugby nation, so to claim their scalp was some achievement.
What made me so proud about what we did in 1972 was that Llanelli was now able to take its place alongside the Cardiff side of Bleddyn Williams, the Haydn Tanner and Willie Davies inspired Swansea and the Newport team of the great Dai Watkins. We had beaten the All Blacks.
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I was a member of the Wales tour party of 1969 that went to New Zealand with a strong side boasting the likes of JPR, Gerald Davies, John Dawes, Keith Jarrett, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Maurice Richards, Mervyn Davies and Dai Morris. It was a side that had won the Five Nations Championship that year and were feeling pretty good about themselves.
We were absolutely taken apart.
The Lions, of course, then won the series there in '71 and from then on our coach Carwyn James, one of the great thinkers of the game, had put into our minds that the All Blacks could be beaten.
It may have been our centenary season at Llanelli, but even before it started, three or four months out, all our focus was on the All Blacks game.
There was an extra edge to our fitness sessions and I remember playing London Welsh early on as part of our celebrations and we tore into them. We wanted to make a statement straight away that we meant business.
Two or three weeks out we went training at Llandovery College, we had a half-hour sweat in the gym, then Carwyn called a halt to it and said "right, shower".
We then went out with our wives and girlfriends for lunch in a lovely country house.
It was all part of the bonding process, but also a realisation that from now on it was all about the match.
It was all part of Carwyn's meticulous preparations, set out with military precision.
And as the days went on he kept on telling us, "we can beat the All Blacks, we can beat the All Blacks".
With some coaches you hear words, but you don't really feel as if they believe them.
With Carwyn, there was no doubt he did.
In the build-up to the match I had a bit of a shoulder problem, which I was a little bit concerned about so I didn't play a few games beforehand and I was having treatment while the other boys had gone to watch the All Blacks take on Western Counties in Kingsholm.
It was their first match since arriving in the UK and they dished out a real hiding.
We were next up.
But when the boys came back and as they came off the bus, they were saying, "you know what, we can beat this lot, we can beat them". As well as Carwyn, the boys were now believing.
Of course, the day itself has long gone down in folklore.
Beforehand, we had gone to the Ashburnham Hotel for a light pre-match meal.
Ray Williams, the WRU's coaching organiser had been asked to give us a talk about ways we could try and attack the tourists, then our forwards coach Norman Gale, one of rugby's hard men, who hadn't taken a backward step on that '69 tour, stood up to deliver the kind of speech that brought the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
There was a bit of colourful language thrown in, but from there on, none of us were in any doubt of what this game meant.
On the bus from Pembrey to Stradey you were looking out of the window and seeing thousands of people on the streets, people you had worked with in the steelworks making their way to the match.
You could see in their eyes how much they wanted this win and you knew you were playing for more than just yourselves.
It was for the town of Llanelli and it was for the supporters who travelled down from Aberystwyth, Pembroke, Ammanford and beyond.
Then, in the changing rooms, it was Delme's turn.
Here was a man who had been on three Lions tours, packed down alongside the great Willie John McBride, here was a player who we all had huge respect for.
Delme delivered a speech charged with emotion.
The atmosphere in the changing room was incredible with Delme telling us how he would give up everything — those Lions tours, his Wales caps, for a win against the All Blacks for his beloved Scarlets.
Then, one by one, he went around the players telling them what he expected of each and every one of them.
When he came to Grav, his words sent him into tears, while Gareth Jenkins wanted to burst through the wall.
We were ready.
Of course, outside, the atmosphere, with more than 20,000 crammed into Stradey, was electric.
And we started well with Roy Bergiers charging down that Lindsey Colling kick and scoring early on.
From there on, it may not have been the prettiest of matches, but nobody cared.
Our tactics were for me and Chico Hopkins at scrum-half to keep pinning New Zealand back in their own half. We were 6-0 up, let them force the game.
Our forwards was magnificent to a man, working their socks off to keep us going forward.
Grant Batty came on for them and I think he tried to kill me five times, but I managed to slip his grasp and we managed to hold on.
The rest, as they, is history as the fans poured onto the pitch and Delme was chaired off the field.
It was bedlam in the changing rooms afterwards. There was no security in those days and fans were in there with us sipping champagne, some even asking me for the dirt off my boots.
My father didn't make the game so I headed back to see him afterwards and heading through West End, the party was in full flow.
There were policeman playing football with their helmets, fans dancing in the street, no wonder Max Boyce sang about the day the pubs ran dry the way they were drinking at 8pm!
It was just an incredible day.
And for me it eclipsed anything else that I had achieved in my career.
There were Grand Slams and Triple Crowns with Wales, I had the honour of captaining the British Lions in New Zealand and I was part of Willie John's Lions side of 1974 that won a series in South Africa, which took some beating.
But this was the pinnacle.
Playing for your home town was always a dream for me.
Beating the All Blacks and seeing what it meant to my family, friends, work colleagues, people of the town and fans from further afield who still want to talk about it to this day, was something I will never forget.