The sale in Cardiff on February 24 includes Edwards’ shirt from the Barbarians vs New Zealand match of 1973 when he scored what is generally considered the greatest try in the game’s history. The estimate for the jersey is £150,000-200,000.
This month was the 50th year anniversary of the famous match at Cardiff Arms Park which was the final contest of New Zealand’s 1972/73 tour of the British Isles. It was regarded by the All Blacks as a chance to take revenge after their test series loss against the British Lions in 1971.
In the end, the Barbarians triumphed 23-11 with six tries scored in total – four for the Barbarians and two for the All Blacks. Former England international, rugby journalist and commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith said: “The match set such a high standard of excellence that it will forever be a yardstick by which games of rugby football union will be judged.”
Rogers Jones said the shirt is in ‘original and complete condition without fault’. The saleroom already hold the current auction record for a rugby jersey: the New Zealand shirt worn by captain Dave Gallaher on their 1905-06 British tour which made £180,000 back in 2015.
Edwards, the Barbarians’ scrum half, scored his famous try in only the 2nd minute of the game – diving over the line in the left-hand corner at the Taff End after a phenomenal team move which started deep in the Barbarians’ own half.
The Rogers Jones catalogue states: ‘It would be a try forever etched in rugby folklore and that epitomized all that was good about rugby and teamwork.’
It also quotes Edwards recalling the game: “It is a match that will live with me forever. People tend only to remember the first four minutes of the game because of the try, but what they forgot is the great deal of good rugby played afterwards, much of which came from the All Blacks.”
In relation to that try, he said: “When I saw the gap, I shouted to Derek Quinnell ‘Twl e ‘ma’ (throw it here). I still remember the thrill, the surge of adrenalin as I took the pass and hit the gain line before sweeping around [Joe] Karam.
“I am often asked what was going through my head when I took the pass. Well, the only thing in my mind was whether my hamstrings would stand up to the all-out sprinting. I prayed they wouldn’t seize up in that mad dash for the corner.”
The try’s iconic status was bolstered by Cliff Morgan’s commentary, said to be the second most repeated UK television sporting commentary after Kenneth Wolstenholme’s ‘They think it’s all over…’.
Morgan’s words were: ‘Kirkpatrick to Williams. This is great stuff. Phil Bennett covering, chased by Alistair Scown. Brilliant, Oh, that’s brilliant….John Williams. Pullin, John Dawes….great dummy, David, Tom David, the half-way line. Brilliant by Quinnell….this is Gareth Edwards. A dramatic start. What a score!’
British Lions shirt
The sale comprises a total of 39 lots and will include other jerseys worn by Edwards in Wales and British Lions games as well as shirts he received in swaps with players from other international teams.
Another of the lots is a No.9 jersey that Edwards wore in the 1974 British Lions tour to South Africa. Ending with a 26-9 victory, the Lions won the controversial series which took place in defiance of the developing international policy to isolate South Africa on the sporting field during the apartheid regime.
The shirt is estimated at £20,000-25,000.
A shirt worn by Edwards’ international rival, New Zealand scrum half Sid Going, is also on offer. The 1969 All Blacks shirt is estimated at £7000-12,000.
The Edwards-Going battles were legendary including their famous duels in the 1971 British Lions tour of New Zealand which were a key feature of the tour. This shirt was worn in the New Zealand-Wales game at Eden Park, Auckland in June 1969 which the All Blacks won 33-12.
Edwards recalled: “This was going to be the first of many battles with Sid. A great competitor and a wonderful scrum half.”