Barbarians And All Blacks A Match Made In Heaven

There is no getting away from it, I am old, and sometimes I stare wistfully and with envy at the youthful figures I see before me striding their fields of dreams.

But one huge plus of nearing my sixtieth birthday is that I was alive in 1973, when “that” match was played at Cardiff Arms Park, not only was I alive, but I was there that day as an acne afflicted fifteen year old, standing in the north enclosure.

I was level with Phil Bennett when he started sidestepping in his twenty-five (twenty two’s hadn’t been invented back then) at the start of a try that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I watch it.

If I close my eyes I can go back there in an instant, I can smell the damp grass, the liniment, the Brains dark on the adults breath around me, it was the most magical of days.

Fast forward some forty-four years later and this Saturday  I will be in the press box at Twickenham, the exuberance of youth and wide-eyed innocence has long gone, but the thought of seeing those two sets of famous jerseys run out on to the lush turf at HQ still sets my pulse racing.

One of the main protagonists of that great game in ’73’ hardly ever gets a mention, yet it was his empathy, and feel for the game, that played a huge part in allowing it to be such a classic, I am referring to Georges Domerq the French referee, he was a diminutive figure socks rolled down clad in green and dwarfed by the Giants all around him.

Georges,pictured above, is now 86 and lives in Bellocq where he has been mayor of the town since before the 1973 epic.

It is not widely known that the match created such euphoria in France, that a crowd gathered to cheer and greet the Frenchman at the airport, when the aircraft bringing home landed in France.

Domerq was invited to referee the Barbarians “re match”with the All Blacks, the following year at Twickenham, when a Mervyn Davies try saved the day and the match ended with honours even at 13-13, the only match New Zealand failed to win on that tour.

There is a symmetry between 1973 and 2017, in that on Saturday we have a man in the middle with an equal empathy, and an equal feel for the game, Nigel Owens.

Ok there may not be a cheering crowd to greet Nigel at the Pont Abraham services, on the M4, when he returns from London, and he is not mayor of Carmarthen, (well not yet anyway) but he is the King of hearts in Wales and indeed in many other realms.

The sales of “Ref Radio” increase dramatically when Mr Owens is on duty, I think it’s about time he got a royalty contract with the providers.

Whilst there is symmetry in the whistle blowers the same cannot be said of the players.

The 1973 team that faced the All Blacks, contained the bulk of the victorious Lions 1971 side that were series winners in the land of the long white cloud.

Also the 1974 Baa Baas contained the Lions pack that were unbeaten in their 1974 tour of South Africa.

Sadly in this professional era the Barbarians can longer call on the cream of British rugby, but there is still a very special feeling about a Baa Baas match with New Zealand.

On Saturday I will think back with nostalgic reverence to the seventies, and I guarantee you that somewhere in the Twickenham crowd, there will be a fifteen year old who will enjoy a magical day, that will stay with him of her for ever, such is the magic of a Barbarians v New Zealand match.

“For it’s a way we have in the Baa Baas and a jolly good way too”.



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