Grand Slams, Triple Crowns and Championship wins
Wales have won the Championship outright 27 times (counting the initial Home Nations Championship, the Five Nations Championship and the Six Nations Championship together) and shared the title a further nine times making it 35 achievements overall.
Wales have won the Championship outright in 1893, 1900, 1902, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1922, 1931, 1936, 1950, 1952, 1956, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1994, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2019.
The most recently shared Championship was in 1988 when Wales secured a Triple Crown before going into their final day encounter with France, which France won to put them level on points in the table.
The first shared title was with Ireland in 1906 with Wales’s other shared titles coming in 1910 (with England & Scotland), 1932 (with England & Ireland), 1939 (with England & Ireland), 1947 (with England), 1954 (with England & France), 1955 (with France), 1964 (with Scotland) and 1970 (with France). One other outcome of interest was in 1973, when the Five Nations each won two matches and the Championship ended in a five-way tie.
1906 – Shared with Ireland
1910 – Shared with England and Scotland
1932 – Shared with England and Ireland
1939 – Shared with England and Ireland
1947 – Shared with England
1954 – Shared with England and France
1955 – Shared with France
1964 – Shared with Scotland
1970 – Shared with France
1973 – Five Way Tie
1988 – Shared with France
21 Triple Crowns
Wales claimed their 21st Triple Crown on the same day they claimed the Grand Slam at Principality Stadium in 2019 to give Warren Gatland the perfect parting gift in his final game in the championship.
To make the victory sweeter, the accolade was claimed against defending champions Ireland who had no answer to Alun Wyn’s men as the home side carved out a 25-7 victory in front of a packed house under the open roof of the Cardiff citedel.
The 20th Triple Crown was claimed on English soil for the very first time in February 2012 after a titanic battle at Twickenham. A new-look England side, under the stewardship of temporary head coach Stuart Lancaster, had Wales swaying at 12-12 but a moment of magic by replacement centre Scott Williams saw him dive over for a late try for Wales to secure a stunning 19-12 victory.
Wales’s Triple Crown win in the 2008 ix Nations represented the first time that Wales had won the Triple Crown title as a trophy since its creation for the 2005-2006 season’s Championship. Winning it at Croke Park, Ryan Jones’s lifting of the coveted crown wrestled the title from the holders, Ireland, who up until that point, had won it back-to-back in the 2006 and 2007 Six Nations tournaments, the only team prior to Wales to possess the title as a physical trophy. The win in 2008 was Wales’s 19th Triple Crown since the national team first took to the field in 1881.
Wales’s first Triple Crown success came after eleven years of international matches which also coincided as an outright Championship win. They had to wait a further seven years for their next Triple Crown success which again saw Wales win the Championship with Billy Bancroft playing at fullback in both of those winning sides.
The Triple Crown was won a further three times in the first decade of the 20th Century; 1902, 1905, 1908 and 1909 with Wales wrapping up the title outright on all four occasions and achieving the Triple Crown as part of a Grand Slam (albeit with France’s matches not counted as Championship encounters) in 1908 and 1909.
1911 saw Wales achieve their first Triple Crown of the next decade and the first-ever official Championship Grand Slam to add to their 1908 and 1909 slams; France, by now, playing a full set of Championship matches allowing for a Championship clean sweep to be obtained. Captained by Billy Trew and Johnnie Williams this would represent Wales’s last Triple Crown for some time and although there were subsequent Championship successes in the intervening years, Wales had to wait nearly four decades for their next Triple Crown success.
1950 and 1952 as with the previous three Triple Crowns coincided with a Grand Slam success as John Gwilliam twice captained Wales to victory over the home nations. The 6-3 victory over Ireland that delivered the first crown for Wales for 39 years in Belfast on 11th March 1950 was overshadowed by events the day afterwards. A Tudor V aircraft carrying fans back home from the match crashed outside Llandow killing 80 people, at the time, the worst aviation disaster in history. Championship success followed again after 1952 on a further four occasions but no Triple Crowns were achieved again before 1965 saw Wales bag the Crown and Championship but no Grand Slam. The men in red were not finished with Triple Crowns in the 60s, following a further Championship win in between with another Triple Crown and Championship in 1969.
As the 1970s golden-era broke into full-swing Wales pulled off five Triple Crowns, in 1971, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 with the 1971, 1976 and 1978 successes contributing to Grand Slam successes. The 1979 Triple Crown also secured the Championship outright. Success between 1976 and 1978 ensured Wales became the first team to win the Triple Crown three times back-to-back, a record, that with the 1979 Triple Crown they were able to stretch to four. The team selected to achieve the Triple Crown at Lansdowne Road in 1978 was, at the time, the oldest Wales team in history. Charlie Faulkner, the Pontypool prop, was the oldest player at 37.
With the legendary team of the 1970s moving on it took Wales eight years before their next Triple Crown came about as a Jonathan Davies-inspired Wales team took the Triple Crown in 1988, sharing the Championship with France in the process, after wowing the Home Nations with a brand of attacking rugby. The defeat of England at Twickenham would be Wales’s last at ‘HQ’ for twenty years. Wales’s loss to France in the final match of the 1988 Championship on March 19th 1988 denied Wales a Grand Slam and outright Championship win and Wales would have wait seventeen years to the day before securing their next Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown of 2005 came as part of the Grand Slam of the same year with Wales going into their final Championship day encounter with Ireland with four wins out of four under their belt. Three titles rested on the outcome of the match (although mathematically Wales could have still won the Championship alone even if they had lost to Ireland), and having blazed a trail through Italy, France and Scotland; Wales – led equally for exactly 50% of the tournament by both Gareth Thomas and Michael Owen – made good on their opening day victory over England to beat Ireland and deliver Wales’s 18th Triple Crown, along with a Grand Slam and Championship title.
In 2008, Wales were afforded the luxury of going into their Triple Crown decider without the outcome of the Championship necessarily depending upon it. With France still to play, the Grand Slam could not yet be discussed, and a loss to Ireland at Croke Park would not have necessarily ruled out Wales’s Championship ambitions. Having defeated England at Twickenham in the opening match and laying the ghosts of twenty years to rest, Wales moved on through the Championship with a renewed vigour and belief. Scotland made Wales’s life difficult one week later but Wales’s class shone through defeating their guests by three tries to nil.
After Italy gave Wales a chance to express themselves during the middle match of five, Wales arrived in Dublin in an assured mood looking to achieve their first win in the city since 2000 and their first win at Croke Park at the first time of asking. After a nervy opening passage Wales emerged the stronger of the two teams in the match, surviving two yellow cards and a half-time deficit to power forward squeezing victory from Ireland, toppling the Triple Crown title holders in the process and securing their 19th Triple Crown. All eyes turned to Cardiff and the sudden potential for a Grand Slam the following weekend.
12 Grand Slams
Grand Slam 2012
Captain: Sam Warburton
Wales’s victory over France on the final day of the 2012 RBS Six Nations delivered an 11th Grand Slam on the back of a 20th Triple Crown three weeks earlier.
The campaign began with a stunning 21-23 victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium when Leigh Halfpenny banged over a late penalty to use Wales’ get out of jail card for the tournament.
Ireland appeared to have grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck when Bradley Davies was yellow carded for a tip tackle. Tommy Bowe scored a try to put Ireland in control while Davies was off the park.
But George North scored in the corner to bring Wales to within a point. With the seconds ticking away, Stephen Ferris was sin binned for a debatable tip tackle on Ian Evans. Halfpenny showed nerves of steel to bang over the winning penalty.
The second round of the championship was more routine with Wales romping to a 27-13 win over Scotland at the Millennium Stadium.
All Wales’ points were scored by Cardiff Blues players with Alex Cuthbert slicing over while Leigh Halfpenny added a brace along with three conversions and two penalties for a personal haul of 22 points.
Fortress Twickenham was stormed 12-19 with Scott Williams turning the game in the visitors favour with a brilliant piece of individualism. Leigh Halfpenny and Owen Farrell had levelled the scores 12-12 with their boots before Williams stripped rampaging England lock Courtney Lawes of the ball before kicking ahead and winning the race to the ball to score close to the posts to leave the Twickenham crowd stunned as Wales picked up the Triple Crown.
Phase four was completed with a routine 24-3 triumph over Italy before Wales claimed their 11th Grand Slam with a breathless 16-9 win over France at the Millennium Stadium.
Alex Cuthbert scored the only try of the match to secure Wales their third grand slam since 2005.
Grand Slam 2008
Captain: Ryan Jones
Wales’s victory over France on the final day of the 2008 RBS Six Nations provided them with a perfect 10 of Grand Slams, roughly averaging one every ten years since the National team became the first to achieve a Grand Slam with a clean sweep of their opposition in 1908. 100 years and one day had passed since the 1908 feat and Wales’s 2008 victory saw them equal France’s record of two Grand Slams since the start of the Six Nations Championship in the 1999-2000 season.
The 2008 Slam was achieved against the backdrops of new beginnings. With new Head Coach Warren Gatland in charge and Ryan Jones promoted through the ranks to skipper, Wales went into the 2008 RBS Six Nations fresh with endeavour. With Rob Howley and Shaun Edwards also on board as Assistant Coaches Wales focussed on playing to their strengths and maintaining a tight defence; leaking as few tries as possible and putting game-breakers into positions to do damage as Shane Williams enjoyed a season in the sun crossing the try-line.
Part one of the Grand Slam was achieved by beating England at Twickenham 19-26. The perfect beginning to the tournament was no mean feat, the victory was ground out against the beaten Rugby World Cup finalists in style during a second half fightback after they had run rampant against Wales in the first half. When James Hook converted Mike Phillips’s touchdown on seventy minutes Wales ended the twenty year hoodoo of not winning a match at the venue that England fans call ‘HQ’ since 1988.
Wales arrived in London with the legacy of Adrian Hadley’s two-try salvo in 1988 casting a shadow over them. 1999 at Wembley aside, which counted as a home game, Gatland’s eight predecessors including Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and the 2005 Grand Slam winning Coach Mike Ruddock had all failed to achieve a victory over England on English soil, but the Kiwi masterminded it at his first attempt as Wales produced a magnificent performance full of grit and determination.
Wales trailed 19-6 five minutes into the second half but rose to the occasion and breathed fire in the final half hour of the match. They got off to the worst possible start when centre Sonny Parker, under extreme pressure from Leicester Tigers’ rampaging flanker Lewis Moody, knocked on inside 12 seconds from Wilkinson’s kick off. The Newcastle fly half opened the scoring with a 40 metre penalty to hand England a dream start. Wales responded within a minute and levelled the scores when Hook showed no early signs of nerves to fire over a penalty. Wilkinson added a further penalty and drop-goal to edge ahead with Lesley Vainikolo entering the field of play for David Strettle who had pulled up injured.
Wales struggled to impose themselves upfront in the loose as England’s front five dominated, and the visitors’ nerves crept in at the end of the opening quarter as Hook wastefully kicked the ball straight into touch. In the following phase Vainikolo’s presence created panic to create the first try of the match on 22 minutes. England’s deliberate cross-kick tactic was in action again as Wilkinson’s kick deep into Wales’s 22 found the Gloucester wing, who leapt over Jones and his deft inside pass found the on-rushing Toby Flood to score under the posts. Wilkinson duly converted the extras.
Wales hit back and a mazy run by the pint-sized Shane Williams was edged out by a stubborn English defence. Hook reduced the arrears to ten points with his second penalty from long-range after Andrew Sheridan impeded the Welsh line-out. Three minutes before the interval, Sackey would have doubled their try count only for the intervention of Huw Bennett. South African referee Craig Joubert, in charge of his first match at Twickenham, went upstairs to the Television Match Official and Ireland’s Simon McDowell deemed the Ospreys hooker and Hook had done enough to stop the Wasps wing.
On 45 minutes it looked as though any chances of Wales getting back into the match were fading away as Wilkinson kicked his third penalty. Hook responded and kept Wales in touch with his third successful penalty and after a short lull Wales suddenly came to life. Henson showed star potential on the hour mark with a brilliant burst past Wilkinson. Hook converted his fourth penalty two minutes after fullback Lee Byrne’s chip and chase and with England offering nothing and showing no endeavour Wales were suddenly only seven points behind.
Wales were now in the ascendancy and scored the crucial try on 67 minutes when Hook beat three challenges to supply Byrne in the left corner. It was now time to believe as Hook fired home the conversion to tie the scores. Gatland had stoked up the fire in the build-up by saying he was unimpressed by England fullback Iain Balshaw when he went on a scouting mission at his club side Gloucester last weekend, and within a minute, his prediction came true as Phillips charged down Balshaw’s kick and Gethin Jenkins fed Williams who passed to the Ospreys scrum half to beat Balshaw as Wales led for the first time in the match. Hook’s splendid conversion from the touchline pushed the visitors into dreamland as Wales recorded their first win in London since 1988.
With the ghosts of Twickenham firmly laid to rest Wales turned their attention to Scotland, and thoughts of redressing the 21-9 Patterson inspired defeat they suffered at the hands of the thistle only twelve months earlier. Freshening the team somewhat, Gatland handed a first Wales start on the wing to young Cardiff Blue Jamie Roberts with Tom Shanklin replacing Sonny Parker at centre.
Scotland provided a stern test of forward power and with Chris Paterson showing yet again his lethal potency from the boot, Wales were never truly allowed to feel comfortable until the final whistle as Scotland made sure that they were always doing just enough to remain in touch with their hosts. In the end however, the 30-15 scoreline reflected the difference between the two sides with James Hook and Shane Williams with a brace ensuring the Scots were outscored 3-0 on try count.
Williams scored in the 13th and 67th minute and sandwiched James Hook’s second half try. Llanelli Scarlet Stephen Jones took over from Hook in the second half and his controlled style and accurate goal kicking helped to seal victory at the Millennium Stadium. Wales peppered the visitors’ line as Jones, Ian Evans and then Mike Phillips all surged for the opening score in the first few minutes but Scotland held firm. Despite Wales’s early domination, it was the visitors who opened the scoring through Paterson’s penalty on ten minutes. Wales hit back within two minutes as a sweeping move involving Gavin Henson, Hook and Lee Byrne found Williams who danced to score his 36th Test try.
Gatland’s men were handed a further boost three minutes later when Scotland saw lock Nathan Hines yellow carded for a swinging arm on Byrne, but the hosts failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage as the visitors dug deep. Hook’s penalty on 28 minutes increased their lead to seven points before Scotland suffered a big blow when skipper Jason White was replaced on the half hour by Allister Hogg. Paterson kept Scotland in touch with his second penalty as Wales led 10-6 at the interval and Paterson reduced the lead to just one point with a third penalty on 44 minutes. Wales rallied and Hook scored Wales’s second try two minutes later when he collected Duncan Jones’s pass and accelerated through a gaping hole before handing off the challenge of Ford.
Paterson nudged Scotland back into contention with his fourth penalty and brought Frank Hadden’s side back to 17-15 with his fifth successful kick on 55 minutes. Gatland threw on experienced Llanelli Scarlets trio of Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel and Matthew Rees for Hook, Phillips and Bennett and it worked a treat as Jones kicked Wales five points clear before Williams clinched the match with a brilliant solo try. He beat four Scottish challenges and then held off Ospreys teammate Nikki Walker in the left corner. Italian Television match official Carlo Damasco awarded the try although it appeared his foot was in touch. Jones added the conversion and his penalty with seven minutes left sealed an emphatic victory for the hosts with the two-try haul from Williams making him Wales’s leading try-scorer in the Six Nations Championship.
Part three of the 2008 Grand Slam saw Williams notch another brace and stretch his Six Nations try-scoring record even further as Wales got into their stride against the Italians. Joe Calzaghe appeared on the Millennium Stadium pitch before the home crowd as he had done two years previously, but whilst that appearance had coincided with Italy’s first away point in the Championship, this occasion saw Wales enjoy themselves with a 47-8 victory.
Wales were made to work hard in the first forty minutes but blew away the Italian challenge with 34 unanswered second-half points to clinch the record win. Italy came out with their attacking intentions clear to see but were nervy in the opening minutes and they soon fell behind when Stephen Jones slotted a three-pointer. It was the first of his 18 points with the boot. He was flawless all day, kicking three conversions and four penalties before leaving the field to rapturous applause with 13 minutes to play. James Hook was the popular replacement and he did his job in scoring the first of his two conversions within seconds of coming on.
It was the introduction of Mike Phillips that sparked Wales’s second half performance. The feisty Osprey sliced the Italian defence to shreds with his first touch of the ball, so very nearly scoring a try from seventy metres out. On the wing, Williams showed his class. His pace, power, and overall work rate all contributing. He weighed in with a brace. His second try was a moment of sheer brilliance and will grace highlight reels in years to come. Warren Gatland’s side now topped the RBS Six Nations table with three wins from three, and had Ireland next in the hunt for the Triple Crown. Lee Byrne was the man of the match, his two tries were matched by the magnificent Shane Williams, but Byrne’s coolness under the high ball and pinpoint kicking display won him the accolade.
With both England and Scotland despatched in the first two rounds, the trip to Dublin, Wales’s first to Croke Park, set-up the prospect of their first Triple Crown since the triumph of 2005. In the years since then, the title had been formalised as a trophy and Ireland were the current holders of that trophy having won it consecutively in the 2006 and 2007 RBS Six Nations Championships. The trip to the temporary home of Irish rugby was significant for it represented Wales’s first real test since the England match, with many believing that the troubles of Ireland’s early Championship form would be erased with a stern victory over the Dragons. Warren Gatland returned to face the team he once coached and Wales looked for a first victory in Dublin since 2000.
With so many narratives hanging over the match, part four of the Grand Slam was achieved with a magnificent all-round performance that saw Wales defeat Ireland 12-16 in front of a full crowd at Croke Park surviving two sin-binnings and a half-time deficit to prize the Triple Crown title and trophy from their hosts.
Wing Shane Williams scored the only try of the match after 50 minutes to put him on top of the all-time Wales try scoring list with 40 touchdowns alongside Gareth Thomas, also stretching his Welsh Six Nations record in the process. At fly half, the dependable Stephen Jones, despite missing his first kick of the afternoon weighed in with eight points, including a very difficult conversion of Williams’s try, and used his boot in open play to peg Ireland back time and time again.
The home side opened the scoring with a fourth minute O’Gara penalty and may have lead 6-3 at the half time break, but it was Wales who had most of the go-forward in the first forty minutes. Marshalled by the ever dependable Martyn Williams and talismanic skipper Jones, Wales weathered early Irish offensives and slowly but surely began to take a stranglehold on the match. Both in possession and territory they were dominant but were unable to breach the home line until ten minutes into the second period. Inevitably, it was Williams who was the try-scorer. He fended off two Irish defenders to score in the right hand corner.
That score was telling. Wales had the breakthrough and despite conceding two penalties while Martyn Williams was in the bin for a professional foul, their control of the match remained unfaltering and replacement Hook confirmed the win with a 75th minute penalty.
Wales completed the Grand Slam with victory over France on Saturday 15th March 2008 at the Millennium Stadium, as with 2005, the Dragons were able to enjoy their victory in front of a home crowd in Cardiff as Ryan Jones added his name to the list of captains able to say they had led Wales to the accolade.
The mouth-watering championship decider between Wales and Les Bleus fell at 5pm on a Super Saturday of RBS Six Nations matches, the final day of action of one of the most open tournaments in years. France Coach Marc Lievremont named his strongest possible side after an extremely experimental selection policy for his side’s earlier matches. Yet the fact remained that to deny Wales of the championship, and to gain their third successive title, France would have to defeat Wales by twenty points.
France though were not destined to gatecrash the Welsh party. Both sides agreed to a closed Millennium Stadium roof with the rain continuing to pour down in Cardiff, but that wasn’t to dampen the mood as a sell-out crowd and an estimated quarter-of-a-million fans filled the Welsh capital for the historic day.
Lock Ian Gough led the Three Feathers out on his 50th cap to an electric atmosphere and flag waving home crowd, but in a nervy opening, hooker Huw Bennett missed with his first line-out and Lee Byrne’s ambitious long-range drop goal inside two minutes fell short. Gatland had challenged James Hook to produce the game of his life for Wales and he duly produced with a moment of magic in the fifth minute. His superb flick pass released centre Tom Shanklin and the ball found its way to Mark Jones but he slipped at the vital moment.
Wales built on their early dominance and Hook opened the scoring with a routine penalty in the fifth minute; his opposite number David Skrela responded with an awful restart which went backwards into touch. Hook continued to set the tempo when he smashed France’s Anthony Floch into touch and although he missed a second penalty, he charged down Skrela’s hesitant kick seconds later.
Jean-Baptiste Elissalde reduced the deficit to three before Hook fired Wales 9-3 ahead with his third penalty on 21 minutes. France threatened briefly but the home side’s defence stood firm, Martyn Williams symbolising Wales’s desire with a crucial turnover on 32 minutes, but Elissalde cut the lead to three on the stroke of half time after Gavin Henson was given a yellow card for a high tackle on Fulgence Ouedraogo.
France levelled through Elissalde’s third penalty but Wales had weathered the storm as Henson returned. Then the moment of magic arrived on the hour mark, courtesy of the wing wizard himself. Yannick Jauzion’s dropped ball enabled the diminutive Shane Williams to hack the oval on to secure the decisive Welsh try and in doing so he broke Gareth Thomas’s all-time Wales try-scoring record with his superb solo effort, now with 41 international tries to his name. Replacement Stephen Jones converted and Wales were in dreamland.
Fly half Jones then sent Wales ten points clear with a penalty before Dimitri Yachvili and Jones exchanged penalties in the final ten minutes before Martyn Williams burst through a gaping hole with four minutes remaining. Williams’s late try sealed the win and ten points from the boot of Stephen Jones and nine from James Hook helped Wales record an amazing second slam in four seasons, which sparked wild celebrations in Cardiff.
Grand Slam 2005
Captains: Gareth Thomas (3) and Michael Owen (2)
Wales’s 32-20 victory on the last day of the 2005 RBS Six Nations sealed a magnificent tournament for the men in red. After 27 years of hurt, underachievement, heartache and pain, Welsh dreams came true when they won the Grand Slam, Triple Crown and the RBS Six Nations Championship. Mike Ruddock’s men had come close to scapling both South Africa and the All Blacks during the 2004 Lloyds TSB Autumn Series, and there was a strong belief that the team was an inch away from the start of greatness. All that was required was the killer scalp to set the ball rolling; it came in the form of England on February 5th 2005.
A game against the old enemy, and Wales were looking for their first win over England on home soil for 12 years. One man light the blue touch paper and started Wales Grand Slam dream – that man was Gavin Henson. Henson struck a wonderful 45-metre penalty to complete a well deserved victory in the dying minutes of a match that Wales had dominated but not capitalised upon. After an early Shane Williams converted try and numerous missed try and penalty opportunities, England had clawed their way into a two point lead over Wales; England themselves spurning scoring opportunities. With just minutes on the clock, Henson stepped up from long range and blasted home a penalty awarded against England Captain Jason Robinson for holding on. Once Wales were back in front, the outcome was never in doubt with Shane Williams nearly scoring a second with the last touch of the game; the final score Wales 11 England 9.
With one down and a long way to go, a tricky tip to the Italian capital Rome was on the horizon, with the memories of 2003 still fresh in Welsh memories. Luciano Orquera charged down an attempted Henson clearance to scare the Dragons, but Wales were just too good for the Azzurri who could only watch as the men in red cut them apart with some fantastic rugby.
Shane Williams was at his dancing best, teasing the Italian defence with run after run. Brent Cockbain managed a debut try, Martyn Williams scored a clever try against the posts and Robert Sidoli bagged a try against the land of his father. Six tries were score and the second win registered 8-38 – Wales had started to make themselves known.
With confidence flowing Wales headed to Paris and the Stade de France which had been somewhat of a lucky away ground over the previous few seasons. Ruddock’s men looked down and out after the first half as the home side produced the sort of running rugby that the French public so crave. 15-6 down and on the ropes, it was time for the heroics to begin.
The men in red stunned Les Bleus with two quick fire tries from Martyn Williams. Wales were on the comeback and had no intention of losing. A backs-to-the-wall win was influenced by the man France had paid to bring to their shores – Stephen Jones. The other French import Gareth Thomas broke his thumb and didn’t feature in the rest of the competition. Wales had beaten France 18-24 and with three victories out of three, talk of a Grand Slam dream began.
Murrayfield was always a hard game for Wales, but with the displays of recent weeks, for the first time a spirited Welsh crowd travelled North brimming full of confidence. Wales had lit the tournament up with some wonderful running rugby, but the best was yet to come as they easily beat Scotland in a devastating first half. Ryan Jones opened the scoring from a move he started himself in Wales’s own half, before Scotland knew it they were 38-3 down as Wales ran riot. The men in red had scored three tries in the opening 15 minutes. The game was dead and despite a brave comeback to 22-46, Wales were already turning their attentions to the next game – Ireland at home.
And so it came to a Grand Slam match against Ireland, but not a Grand Slam decider. Ireland’s defeat to France meant Wales were the only side who could still win the Grand Slam. Something which they hadn’t achieved since 1978. The scene was set, the Millennium Stadium packed and the weight of a nation hung on the shoulders of the Welsh Rugby team. Wales had not beaten Ireland in Cardiff since 1983. March 19, 2005 was a date which saw all the old memories fade into insignificance.
First came a Gethin Jenkins charge down score then another wonder-try as the Welsh backs once again showed off their pace, style and brilliance. Ireland attempted to get back into it, but the boots of Henson and Stephen Jones meant the men in green were never going to spoil the party. Wales had beaten all that was put in front of them.
Five games, five wins. Wales had won the Grand Slam, and Martyn Williams, who had been an injury doubt at the start of the tournament was pronounced man of the tournament.
Grand Slam 1978
Captain: Phil Bennett
Gareth Edwards celebrated his 50th cap in a 9-6 victory over England in the opening Championship match, with neither side scoring a try on a waterlogged pitch. Llanelli teammates Derek Quinnell and Ray Gravell scored debut tries for Wales in a 22-14 win over Scotland, with Edwards bagging his 20th and final touchdown for his country.
A 20-16 victory over Ireland in Dublin gave Wales a third consecutive Triple Crown, the first country to achieve the feat, but the Irish didn’t make it easy. Steve Fenwick matched Tony Ward’s four goals and added a try in a close-run contest. Irish legend Mike Gibson was making a world-record 64th Test appearance.
The Grand Slam hinged on France’s arrival in Cardiff and Wales had to come back from 7-0 down to record a famous 16-7 victory. The match marked the international retirement of Wales heroes Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards, with Bennett scoring two crucial tries and Edwards adding a clever dropped goal.
The Grand Slam was secured again for the eighth time, although Wales came close again in 1988 and 1994 they fell at the final hurdle on both occasions, securing just the Triple Crown as they were undone by France in 1988, and Championship Title in 1994 as England torpedoed the Grand Slam push at Twickenham. 1978 remained the last Grand Slam on record and Wales fans would have to wait another twenty-seven years before they could toast a clean sweep once again.
Grand Slam 1976
Captain: TM Williams
The opening match against England will always be remembered for the incredible performance of Welsh legend JPR Williams. With blood dripping from a cheek wound that later needed seven stitches, Williams crashed over for two tries in the 21-9 victory at Twickenham.
Fly half Phil Bennett scored thirteen points in the 28-6 victory over Scotland at the Arms Park, becoming the highest Test points-scorer in Welsh rugby history with 92. In the same match, Edwards scored a Welsh record-equalling seventeenth Test try.
None of the Welsh players in the starting line-up had ever won at Lansdowne Road, but a storming second half gave them a 34-9 win after leading only 10-9 at the break. Gerald Davies scored two tries and Bennett bagged 18 points.
France out-scored Wales two tries to one, but the boots of Phil Bennett (two goals), Steve Fenwick (two) and Allan Martin (one) gave them a Grand Slam-winning 19-13 victory. The France match was Captain Mervyn Davies’s last Test for Wales. Three weeks later, he collapsed with a brain haemorrhage during the WRU Challenge Cup semi-final between Swansea and Pontypool.
As in 1971, Wales called on only sixteen players in the four matches of the Championship, and a seventh Grand Slam was secure.
Grand Slam 1971
Captain: John Dawes
England surprisingly selected eight new caps for the opening match in Cardiff, and Wales were out of sight by half time thanks to two tries by the brilliant winger Gerald Davies. Barry John began and finished the scoring with dropped goals as Wales recorded a comfortable 22-6 victory.
The Scotland game will always be remembered for one of the greatest conversions in Welsh rugby history. With the score at 18-14 in Scotland’s favour, Gerald Davies sprinted over in the corner and bearded back rower John Taylor kicked a superb goal from the sideline to steal the match 19-18.
Ireland came and went, demolished 23-9 by the brilliant half back pairing of Barry John and Gareth Edwards.
The same pair were at the fore in a tense 9-5 victory over France at Stade Colombes. Edwards scored the opening try after a seventy metre break by fullback JPR Williams, before John scooted over for the deciding score.
Wales had secured their sixth Grand Slam and did it by calling on only sixteen players in the four matches of the 1971 Championship season.
Grand Slam 1952
Captain: JA Gwilliam
Grand Slam hopes nearly fell at the first hurdle this time around, with an injury-ravaged Wales side only just sneaking home 8-6 against England at Twickenham. The visitors lost Lewis Jones for fifteen minutes with a torn thigh muscle, and although he returned to the field of play it was as a virtual passenger on the wing.
However, at the crucial moment Jones stepped up and provided the extra man as Olympic sprinter Ken Jones scored the winning try: his second of the match.
Fly half Rex Willis broke his jaw early in the game against Scotland at the Arms Park, but stayed on as Wales powered to an 11-0 win, with another try to Ken Jones.
The flying winger was again on the score sheet in the 14-3 victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road, but was denied the chance of scoring in all four Championship games when Wales hosted France at St Helen’s for the Slam decider.
Lewis Jones kicked two penalty goals in his tenth and final match for Wales before converting to rugby league, and Wales were 9-5 winners.
Grand Slam 1950
Captain: JA Gwilliam
After three Grand Slams in four seasons, Wales had to wait thirty-nine years before their fourth came to fruition.
As in the first three Grand Slams, Wales played England in the opening match. The match marked the debut of Lewis Jones: an 18-year-old then, but now widely regarded as one of the most brilliant backs in the game’s history. Jones slotted two goals in the 11-5 victory. Cardiff hero Bleddyn Williams was named as captain for the match, but withdrew because of injury and Edinburgh Wanderers’ back rower John Gwilliam went on to lead Wales to two Grand Slams in three seasons. Wales’s victory over England was only the second recorded at Twickenham.
Scotland were the next side to be put to the Welsh sword, losing 12-0 at St Helen’s, but Grand Slam hopes nearly came to a grinding halt at Ravenhill in the third match. Wales and Ireland were locked at 3-3 in the final minute when winger Malcolm Thomas sprinted for the corner from 15 metres out.
Thomas dived over the line in the tackle of several defenders, knocking the corner flag out in the process. Irish touch judge Ossie Glasgow didn’t have a problem with the try, although he was the only Irishman at the ground that didn’t, and Scottish referee RA Beattie signaled the try for a 6-3 victory. Sadly, the victory was overshadowed by events the following day, as eighty Wales fans returning from Ireland were killed when a plane crashed at Llandow Airfield, near Cowbridge.
It was left to France, whipping boys in the first three Slams but by now hugely improved, to stop the Grand Slam. France, however, never got going and legendary Wales winger Ken Jones ran in two tries in a comfortable 21-0 victory at the Arms Park.
Grand Slam 1911
Captains: WJ Trew (3), JL Williams (1)
A late try to Cardiff forward Joe Pugsley saved Welsh blushes in the opening game against England at St Helen’s. Wales struggled to a 12-11 lead and defended desperately before Pugsley powered his way over the line to secure the points.
Next up, Scotland held the visitors to Edinburgh to a 7-4 lead at half time, but Wales picked up several gears in the second spell to win comfortably. Winger Reggie Gibbs ran in a hat trick of tries in the 32-10 victory; a record score over the Scots.
France were struggling in the tournament, but held Wales to a 0-0 scoreline at half time at the Parc de Princes in Paris. The visitors, however, weren’t about to fall at this hurdle and ran in three second-half tries in the rain to win 15-0. Wales skipper Trew handed the captaincy for the day to winger Johnnie Williams, who had never had the honour before, but did speak fluent French; an asset that would serve as a tactical advantage to Wales on the field that day.
Williams was killed in the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. Two 1909 Slam winners, Phil Waller and Dick Thomas, were also killed in France.
Once again, the Grand Slam came down to the Ireland game at the Arms Park. An hour before kick off, the gates were closed and mounted police tried to disperse the thousands of fans still trying to get in. On the field, the Welsh forwards produced their best performance of the season to carry the home side to a 16-0 victory.
Grand Slam 1909
Captain: WJ Trew
Wales fans didn’t have to wait long for their second Grand Slam. France were still the easy-beats of European rugby and hard fought victories over England and Scotland were highlights of the season. A month after beating Australia 9-6 at the Arms Park, the Billy Trew-captained Wales began the 1909 Championship with an 8-0 win over England.
For the second season in a row, the Scotland game went down to the wire, with Scottish kicker George Cunningham missing a penalty – by less than a foot – to give the visitors to Inverleith a 5-3 win. Wales fullback Jack Bancroft had been penalized for not playing the ball; a little unfair given that he was unconscious at the time.
The trip to Paris resulted in another mauling, with Trew and winger Melville Baker each scoring hat tricks as Wales jogged in 11 tries.
The deciding match against Ireland at St Helen’s was a 0-0 draw at half time, but Wales ran in 13 points in eight minutes during the second half. In spite of a late Irish fightback, they eventually sealed the 1909 Slam 18-5.
Grand Slam 1908
Captains: AF Harding, G Travers, ET Morgan, H Winfield
Wales opened their 1908 campaign at a fog-laden Bristol City ground with fly half Percy Bush in superb form in front of 25,000 bemused spectators who caught only glimpses of the action. Bush was among the try-scorers as Wales ran in five to England’s four, he also added a dropped goal for good measure.
Next up, Wales sneaked home 6-5 over Scotland at St Helen’s with visiting forward Irvine Geddes being disallowed a try in the final minute for a double movement; an eerie repeat of All Black Bob Deans’s disallowed effort three years previously.
France, who weren’t officially in the Championship until 1910, had no answer at the Arms Park falling to the embarrassing score line of 36-4 in their first ever match against Wales. Cardiff winger Reggie Gibbs scored four tries and should have had a fifth, but he was ankle-tapped as he tried to run around behind the uprights. It was the last Test for skipper Teddy Morgan, who scored arguably his country’s most famous try ever in the 1905 win over New Zealand.
Wales travelled to Belfast for the Grand Slam decider, winning 11-5 after being held at 5-all late into the game. Gibbs and fellow winger Johnnie Williams scored late tries to clinch the historic victory.
The 1908 Slam was unique in Welsh rugby history for the fact that Wales fielded a different captain in each of the four matches. They were Arthur Harding, George Travers, Teddy Morgan and Bert Winfield.