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Neath RFC

Welsh wins over Ireland and Scotland have encouraged national dreams of a Triple Crown, even a Grand Slam – two accomplishments achieved by John Dawes’ team 50 years ago.

Wales kicked off the 1971 International Championship on January 16 with a 22-6 win over England at Cardiff through tries by Gerald Davies (2) and John Bevan, two being converted by John Taylor. Barry John dropped two goals and John Williams kicked a penalty.

It is one of rugby football’s wonders that Wales clashes with our Celtic cousins north of the border often throw up compelling, closely-contested classics. Exciting as this year’s game was, it did not quite live up to 1971 !

On February 6, at Murrayfield, John Taylor’s last gasp conversion edged a famous 19-18 victory over Scotland. Taylor, Gareth Edwards, Barry John and Gerald Davies got the Welsh tries, Barry John adding a conversion and a dropped goal.

The Triple Crown was won when Ireland were beaten 23-9 at Cardiff on March 13 as Gerald Davies and Gareth Edwards bagged two tries each, Barry John converting one. He also kicked two penalties and dropped his third goal of the Championship.

And the Grand Slam was edgily secured in Paris on March 27 as Wales won 9-6 through tries by Gareth Edwards and Barry John who also kicked a penalty.

Amazingly, only 16 players appeared in the campaign. Wales fielded the same XV in three games, making but one change for the Scotland game when Aberavon policeman Ian Hall replaced Arthur Lewis who had a hamstring problem.

13 of the 16 would go on to greater glory that summer when the British Lions won a test series in New Zealand for the first time. Ian Hall, Barry Llewelyn and Dave Morris (who did not fancy flying) were unlucky to miss out. The Welsh Grand Slammers were :-

J.P.R. Williams (London Welsh); T.G.R. Davies (London Welsh), S.J. Dawes (captain) (London Welsh), A.J. Lewis (Ebbw Vale), I.Hall (Aberavon), J.C. Bevan (Cardiff); B. John (Cardiff), G.O. Edwards (Cardiff); D.B. Llewelyn (Llanelli), J. Young (Harrogate), D. Williams (Ebbw Vale); W.D. Thomas (Llanelli), M.G. Roberts (London Welsh); W.D. Morris (Neath), T.M. Davies (London Welsh), J. Taylor (London Welsh)

As for Neath in 1970/71, scrum-half Martyn Davies skippered as the Blacks slipped from third to seventh in the unofficial Welsh championship which was won by Bridgend. Right Wing John Roberts scored 28 tries while flanker Mike Thomas crossed 23 times to equal Dave Morris’ forward record set in 1964/65.

Dave Morris (as above) played throughout Wales’ Grand Slam while further honours were earned by Martyn Davies, hooker Norman Rees and prop Walter Williams who helped Wales ‘B’ beat France 13-9. Norman Rees joined lock Barrie Davies in a Wales trial and the busy Norman Rees was in the Wales U-23’s team which beat Fiji 8-6.

With the Blacks sadly redundant at the moment due to the Coronavirus crisis, the big question this weekend is will Wales’ class of 2021 take another step towards emulating that of 1971 – 50 years ago ? MP