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All Whites whip the Wallabies

By Sean Davies

A 20,000 sell-out crowd will pack Swansea's Liberty Stadium as the Ospreys challenge Australia on Wednesday - with many drawn by memories of the Wallabies' last trip to Wales' second city.

Swansea v Australia, 1992 - Richard Moriarty gets to grips with Tim Gavin
Swansea famously beat the touring Wallabies in 1992

That came on 4 November, 1992, as 10,150 crammed into rickety old St Helen's to watch the most famous day in Swansea RFC's post-war history.

If the Ospreys game is something of an anachronism in the professional age, this match fitted into the great Welsh club tradition against southern hemisphere tourists, All Whites fans long trading on the memory of an 11-3 win over New Zealand in 1935.

That - added to a 6-0 win over Australia in 1908 and a 3-0 victory against the Springboks in 1912 - made the All Whites the first club side to claim the scalps of all three southern hemisphere superpowers.

Another win over Australia followed in 1966 (9-8), and a draw (9-9) in 1973.

But a Wallaby renaissance had begun in the late 1970s, and the team that arrived in 1992 had claimed rugby's ultimate prize - the William Webb Ellis Trophy - at Twickenham the previous year.

1908: Swansea 6-0 Australia
1927: Swansea 3-27 Waratahs
1947: Swansea 8-11 Australia
1958: Swansea 6-12 Australia
1966: Swansea 9-8 Australia
1973: Swansea 9-9 Australia
1975: Swansea 6-12 Australia
1982: Swansea 3-12 Australia
1984: Swansea 7-17 Australia
1992: Swansea 21-6 Australia

Swansea's 1992 vintage, a side built and coached by Mike Ruddock, would go on to become the premier Welsh side of the 1990s - as any good Jack will insist!

But few gave them a chance against the Australians who had named their Test team, rather than the dirt-trackers who Swansea fans will tell you were defeated by Llanelli RFC 10 days later.

In contrast, injuries meant the All Whites fielded a front row containing ageing club stalwart Keith Colclough and Swansea University student Chris Clark - who was making just his fifth senior appearance.

But there was something special in the Swansea Bay air that day.

The St Helen's terraces that sweep away from the ground always make it difficult to create a pressure-cooker atmosphere, but on this occasion the crowd could have been encamped on the touch line.

A roar that rolled down to the Mumbles went up as Colclough drove opposing loose-head Matt Ryan out of the first scrum.

The game was so special to me because Swansea was my bread and butter, I was playing alongside people who have been my friends for life

Scott Gibbs

For me - peering through the mist and rain from the terraces - the defining moment came soon after as Wallaby number eight Tim Gavin picked up at the base of another retreating visitors scrum.

His monstrous bulk drove through Richard Webster's initial tackle, and then over the top of opposite number Stuart Davies.

With the Wales back-rowers swatted aside, blind-side flanker Alan Reynolds - an All Whites legend known to all as 'Santa' - flew across and seemed to clamber up Gavin's back before driving him into the turf with a block-busting tackle.

With the momentum rolling, Scott Gibbs slipped through the midfield defence to slide in for an excellent try.

Portly outside-half Aled Williams kept the scoreboard ticking with two penalties, a drop goal and conversion.

And hooker Garin Jenkins got the old St Helen's grandstand rattling with the clinching second-half try, pouncing on a loose Australian tap-back from a defensive line-out.

Anthony Clement gets the ball away from the Wallabies
That was as good a performance as I can remember by a Welsh side

Then-Australia coach Bob Dwyer

But if international stalwarts Gibbs and Jenkins stole the headlines, it was as much about the club regulars stepping up for their day of glory.

"The game was so special to me because Swansea was my bread and butter," said Gibbs.

"I was playing alongside people who have been my friends for life, the guys I worked hard with all week.

"More than that, it was my only victory over Australia - all the games with Wales seemed to be foregone conclusions.

"Australian sport is epitomised and set apart by skill level and their appreciation of space.

"Their union sides may not have the aggressive uniformity of the All Blacks, the sheer mass of South Africa, or the flair of France.

"But they have that precision and are some of the best rugby athletes and players in the world - their sporting ethos is what we should aspire to."

Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer said that the Swansea display was "as good a performance as I can remember by a Welsh side".

Let's hope the Ospreys can beat Australia and give Wales a boost going into the Test

Scott Gibbs

A record-equalling six All Whites went on to represent Wales in the Test with Australia on 21 November - Davies, Gibbs, Jenkins, Webster, Robert Jones and Reynolds (as a substitute).

That is something that will not be repeated at the Ospreys game, their leading international stars being held back for Saturday's international.

But that will not detract from a memorable, throwback day in Swansea.

"There'll be a full house there to energise the team," said Gibbs. "Let's hope they can beat Australia and give Wales a boost going into the Test."

Swansea: Anthony Clement; Mark Titley, Kevin Hopkins, Scott Gibbs, Simon Davies; Aled Williams, Robert Jones; Chris Clark, Garin Jenkins, Keith Colclough, Paul Arnold, Richard Moriarty, Alan Reynolds, Stuart Davies (capt), Richard Webster.

Australia: T Kelaher; D Smith, J Little, T Horan, P Carozza; P Kahl, P Slattery; M Ryan, P Kearns (capt), A Blades, W Waugh, J Eales, T Coker, S Scott Young, T Gavin.

see also
BBC Sport Wales coverage
01 May 06 |  Wales
Ospreys v Australia (Wed)
30 Oct 06 |  Ospreys
Full house for Ospreys-Wallabies
25 Oct 06 |  Ospreys
Injured Holmes out of Europe tour
25 Oct 06 |  Rugby Union
Wallaby wonders: Aussie rugby
27 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Scrum V's rugby history
11 Aug 07 |  Welsh

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