The day the Scarlets made history

Around Llanelli, people will still remind you of the day the Scarlets beat the mighty All Blacks.

Rugby was already the conversation topic of choice in the town where “scarlet fever” was a common condition. But the 9-3 victory for the club against one of the best nations in the world still remains a source of pride.

October 31, 1972, had been a miserable day around Stradey Park, but the pubs ran dry at night, as Carwyn James – just returned from coaching a successful British Lions trip to New Zealand – led his club to victory.

Captain Delme Thomas had given individual team talks to each player, bringing tears to the eyes of Phil Bennett. The squad was given a police escort to the ground, where a crowd of 20,000 awaited, packed into their Stradey fortress.

It could barely have been a more dramatic start. In the third minute, Bennett’s penalty attempt bounced off the cross-bar and into the hands of All Black Lindsey Colling. But in attempting to kick the ball clear, Colling’s punt was charged down by Roy Bergiers, who dived on the ball for a try.

Blood, sweat and tears

And then, kicking was the order of the day. A Bennett conversion and a long-range penalty effort from Andy Hill with eight minutes remaining eclipsed that New Zealand score which no-one quite remembers.

Amongst delirious supporters, Delme – admitted to the Eisteddfod’s Gorsedd this year – was lifted from the field with blood, sweat and tears streaming down his face.

“Who beat the All Blacks?” became the rhetorical question most often posed in an unofficial version of the town’s anthem ‘Sospan Fach,’ also adopted by fans at international matches.

The song itself is said to be a tribute to the variety of metal products made at the nearby steelworks, where many players of the mid 20th century worked and from where they would jog to training sessions at Stradey.