James Mortimer 27.Jan.2014Getty Images
The Barbarians, for a start, had little intention of playing with the looser style one associates with the famous invitational club.
Two years earlier, the British and Irish Lions, laced with a healthy dash of the 1971 Grand Slamming Welsh, had created a special chapter by becoming the only such touring team to win a Test series in New Zealand.
It is a feat that has never been repeated.
It was a powerful All Blacks era notable for players that were, deliberately or not, in the midst of a slight strategic shift.
In 1970 the Springboks had bludgeoned their great rivals to a 1-3 series defeat, while the Lions a season later had an immense pack that seemed equally comfortable dictating terms or distributing to a back division full of menace.
A New Zealand outfit that prided itself on high octane rugby recognised the shift in the global landscape, and despite the talent out wide of the likes of Bryan Williams and Grant Batty, and the rare genius of Sid Going running proceedings, the All Blacks in 1973 had become a brutal forward outfit with a devastating rush defence.
Ian Kirkpatrick, backed by gnarly lieutenants like Alex Wyllie, also had the likes of Andy Haden and Tane Norton in the touring party, and won an impressive 25 from 33 matches.
Folklore has already been created earlier in the tour, with Carwyn James’ Llanelli inflicting on New Zealand their first defeat of a trip that saw the tourist’s lace up their boots in anger every three to four days.
However Test victories against Wales, Scotland and England laid the platform for what could have been the All Blacks first Grand Slam.
The first of those successes, against a Welsh team still containing many of the Lions who had conquered New Zealand in ‘71, was difficult to assess accurately as the Five Nations that season played out to the tournament’s first and only five-way tie.
Meanwhile, the wheels of what seemed to be an unstoppable All Blacks vehicle began to shudder and shake, first coming up against a stoic Munster that held New Zealand to a 3-3 draw, and four days later Ireland and the boot of Barry McGann put together a 10-10 stalemate.
This ensured that on January 27, 1973, there was some special feeling in the air at Cardiff Arms park.
Dawes, according to reports at the time, came out of semi-retirement as a Barbarians team boasting a galaxy of big names lined up to face the All Blacks (12 of the starting Barbarians were '71 Lions), players who knew that 18 months earlier they had been one of the few tourists to dominate the ruck battle - on New Zealand soil no less.
However the Barbarians - sheep dressed in Lions clothing - and the 51,000 excited souls who settled into to watch theatre of the highest order, knew that despite two draws in Ireland this was an All Blacks team not to be taken lightly.
Three days earlier at the awkwardly named Gnoll, Neath and Aberavon were swept aside imperiously 43-3 by an touring team that put together one of their most complete performances of the trip.
The Barbarians match - with some irony the only 'exhibition' fixture of the tour - started in a manner that had most, the players included, gasping for breath in an intense beginning, before Samoan born wing Williams hoofed a ball into the heavens while darting down the touchline.
It was not a bad kick, as Welshman Phil Bennett, wearing the ten jersey but accustomed to the duties of a fullback, watched the ball bounce over his head.
Bennett, who succeeded the incomparable Barry John as Wales’ eminent navigator, had come up against the All Blacks earlier in the tour, but that match had been more noted for his kicking duel with New Zealand custodian Joe Karam.
Few knew then that Bennett possessed what many describe as the cleanest sidestep in rugby.
It was this point that Taranaki hardman and All Blacks forward Alistair Scown flew towards the Welsh back with the velocity that had earned the touring team a reputation as intimidating tacklers.
Bennett knew who Scown was, as the two had crossed paths earlier in the tour in the Llanelli, and famously remarked that he always thought the New Zealand hard man had steam constantly coming out of his ears.
Conventional rugby wisdom dictated that the Barbarians and Bennett would kick the ball back, but despite many of his teammates thinking this would happen, he neatly dodged the charging Scown.
Three glorious sidesteps would follow, with Kirkpatrick leading another wave of All Blacks defenders.
It wasn’t as if the visitor’s defensive systems were splintered, with Williams tackling JPR Williams with such force that the play almost shuddered to a halt, but the sweeping Barbarians would throw support to the left side of the field which kept the movement alive.
Gareth Edwards would eventually score in a breathtaking movement that we all know too well thanks to the immortal words of Cliff Morgan as he called the match.
“Phil Bennett chased by Alastair Scown,” the BBC commentator said.
“Brilliant, oh that’s brilliant! John Williams...Pullin...John Dawes, great dummy!.
“To David, Tom David, the halfway line! Brilliant by Quinnell! To Gareth Edwards! A dramatic start! What a score!”
The final scoreline was 23-11, with two late tries from Batty giving the All Blacks ledger some respectability.
The end result was secondary, as the two great sides put together a moment in time that will forever be etched into rugby’s tomes, 41 years ago today.