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Phil Bennett

Two tours, 8 Tests, 1974-77

Two tours, 8 Tests, 1974-77

(1974: 4 Tests; 1977: 4 Tests)

If one man has experienced the extremes of life with the Lions, then Phil Bennett is probably he.

The Welsh stand-off enjoyed the ultimate high of helping the 1974 side to victory over South Africa , but described captaining the Lions on their next tour, to New Zealand in 1977, as the worst time of his rugby life.

Willie John McBride singled out Bennett as the key player in the stellar line-up that went unbeaten through South Africa in 1974.

Catapulted into the hot seat when Alan Old broke his leg, Bennett top-scored with 103 points and pulled the strings as the Lions dismantled the Springboks in the Test series.

He struck three penalties in difficult conditions as the tourists won the first Test 12-3 and then produced the performance of his career to inflict a record defeat on South Africa in the second.

Bennett sliced through the home defence to score a gem of a try and added a conversion and penalty as the Lions raced to a 28-9 win.

The Llanelli hero kicked eight more points over the final two Tests, three of which came from one of the most celebrated of all drop goals, an injury-time coup de grace in the 26-9 third Test victory set up by Gareth Edwards' delicious reverse pass.

The only way to cap that should have been by leading the Lions to more success in New Zealand in 1977. Sadly, the initial misgivings Bennett had about accepting the captaincy were made flesh amidst one of the coldest, wettest New Zealand winters on record.

By his own admission, Bennett became increasingly isolated, homesick and disillusioned on a tour that many of the players on it wanted quickly to forget. The Lions out-played the All Blacks at forward but never shaped up quite as well in the backs.

All the same, they won the second Test and were only denied a share of the series by a late, late try that gave New Zealand a 10-9 victory in the final match. And despite his troubles - and the treatment he received from opposing flankers - Bennett again top-scored, this time with 112 points.

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