R.I.P. Phil Bennett (1948-2022)

With the passing of Phil Bennett at the age of 73, one of the true greats of Rugby Union has left us. Known to many as “Benny”, Phil Bennett was one of the best players ever to play at fly half for any team at any time. While the role of outside half in the modern game involves a much greater emphasis on kicking ability, Bennett just loved to run with the ball and had an amazing box of tricks with which to bamboozle the opposition, including but not limited to his famous sidestep.

Watch him here in the classic Barbarians versus New Zealand match in Cardiff 1973. The coach of a mere mortal would tear his hair out seeing a player what Bennett did under the shadow of his own posts, but he didn’t just get away with it – he started the move that created a part of Rugby history.

Phil Bennett took over as outside half for Wales from Barry John, who retired early from Rugby, and soon established himself as a permanent member of the phenomenal Welsh team of the early 1970s, joining the ranks of such legends as JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, and Gareth Edwards.

I was born in England but had family connections to Scotland, Wales and Ireland too. Partly because the English team of that period was not strong we always cheered for Wales when we watched the Five Nations games at home. Years later I managed to meet a few of the players of that time. I was flabbergasted to bump into JPR Williams once just outside my house; met Gerald Davies at an event in Cardiff Bay; and encountered Phil Bennett in a bookshop in Cardiff city centre. On all occasions I was completely tongue-tied, struck by the awe of being in the company of such people. All of them were modest and gracious. Remember that Rugby Union in those days was an amateur sport and none of these extraordinary men became rich like modern players do.

Anyway, here is another sensational try featuring Phil Bennett who both starts and finishes the move – with a fantastic contribution from Gerald Davies in between. In the words of the great Bill McLaren “That was absolute magic, and the whole crowd here knows it”.

Rest in Peace, Phil Bennett (1948-2022)

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