1987: Fans' lukewarm start fast turned to fervour

Canada's Stephen Gray prepares to pass to Tom Woods (right) as Tonga's Samiu Mohi applies the pressure at Napier. Canada beat Tonga 37-4.
Photo / AP
Canada's Stephen Gray prepares to pass to Tom Woods (right) as Tonga's Samiu Mohi applies the pressure at Napier. Canada beat Tonga 37-4. Photo / AP

No one really knew what to expect from the 1987 Rugby World Cup.

There was plenty of goodwill towards the All Blacks of course, but they were hardly hot favourites. Australia and France had plenty of backers, with good reason on form over the past two seasons.

It was perhaps indicative of the lukewarm mood among the home fans that Eden Park was less than half full for the tournament opener between the All Blacks and Italy on a fine Friday afternoon in late May.

But the dazzling rugby played by the All Blacks in a remarkable 70-6 victory (four-point tries back then) not only converted those at the ground and the worldwide television audience, but captivated a nation as New Zealanders took the tournament to their hearts.

It was rare and marvellous attacking play by captain David Kirk's men that set the tone for a feast of running rugby.

The first score against Italy was a penalty try, before a young flanker called Michael Jones, barely known outside Auckland, showcased his special athletic ability to cross for the first individual try.

But the moment that sparked the World Cup into life came from John Kirwan. He took a pass in front of his posts and beat seven would-be tacklers on the way to a try for the ages 80m away. It was the most glittering individual try of his career.

The opening weekend produced two cliffhangers.

France and Scotland fought out an epic 20-20 draw in Christchurch, which the French really should have run away with.

They scored three wonderful tries but brave heart Gavin Hastings kicked four penalty goals to keep the Scots in touch.

The game looked all over when French genius Serge Blanco hoodwinked the Scots to score from 50m out after a quick tap. But as France relaxed in the final minute, Scottish winger Matt Duncan escaped their clutches to score in the corner.

To the dismay of the healthy crowd cheering home the Scots, Hastings missed the conversion to leave both teams frustrated.

Back at Eden Park, Romania and Zimbabwe made plenty of friends in a thrilling game. The highlight came from Zimbabwe centre Richard Tsimba, who made a slashing 45m break, capped off with an outrageous dive over the line. Sadly for him, he injured his shoulder in scoring and had to be replaced.

Romania looked well beaten but came storming home with three late tries, inspired by their crafty halfback and captain Mircea Paraschiv, to claim a famous victory by 21-20.

Fiji caused a major upset by giving Argentina a 28-9 hiding. The Pumas had a superb pack and were led by mercurial first-five Hugo Porta, but Fiji scored four brilliant tries. The loss severely dented Argentina's quarterfinal hopes.

But Fiji went from heroes to villains three days later when they fronted the All Blacks in Christchurch with a severely weakened team. They were flogged 74-13 with the All Blacks scoring 12 tries, four each going to fullback John Gallaher and winger Craig Green.

The New Zealanders were unimpressed with their Pacific cousins. Grant Fox equalled Alan Hewson's test record of 26 points in the match but said later: "If I ever beat Hewie's record I hope it's against an opponent giving the game 100 per cent".

New Zealand, Australia, France and Wales waltzed through their quarter-finals without any due difficulty.

The strong Scottish squad could count themselves unlucky to meet the impressive All Blacks, who beat them soundly 30-3 for a semifinal showdown with the Welsh boyos.

Wales had overcome England in a dire quarter-final but were painfully outpointed 49-6 by the All Blacks in Brisbane, with Kirwan and captain Buck Shelford scoring a brace each.

Shelford enhanced his hard man reputation when he dealt out summary justice to Welsh lock Huw Richards late in the game.

The Welshman was scrapping with Gary Whetton when Shelford decided to end it, dropping Richards to the ground with one punch. Referee Kerry Fitzgerald surprisingly sent Richards off for starting the fracas and Shelford escaped any punishment.

Meanwhile the Wallabies had gone into the tournament favoured by many pundits to win.

They had a smooth run through pool play, an easy 33-15 quarter-final romp in the sun at Concorde Oval over Ireland, and were clear favourites to beat an out-of-sorts France in an eagerly anticipated semifinal showdown.

But all was not well in the Wallaby camp.

Eccentric coach Alan Jones made his team give up their jobs for the tournament but he continued to front his high-profile radio job in Sydney. The players understandably were resentful and most of the Sydney-based players defied Jones and went to work anyway, causing a serious communication void between coach and senior players.

Despite this, the Wallabies dominated France and took the lead three times, only for their spirited opponents to claw their way back into contention.

The Aussies looked home and dry leading 24-21 with minutes remaining before Didier Camberabero kicked a pressure goal to tie the scores.

The first use of extra time at the tournament looked likely, until France launched an attack from deep in their own half that has become one of the most famous World Cup moments of all.

A charge of blue-shirted attackers pounded the tired Wallaby defence before inspirational fullback Blanco easily beat punch-drunk hooker Tom Lawton to dive over in the corner.

In the final wash-up France deserved to win, scoring four tries to two, but had given so much physically and emotionally to get over the line in those final dramatic minutes. There was no doubt the All Blacks were in better shape mentally and physically to contest the final after their romp over Wales.

The play-off for third and fourth between Wales and Australia was in Rotorua, with a full house in attendance cheering the Welsh on to a 22-21 victory achieved with a sideline conversion from fullback Paul Thorburn in the final moment.

The result created a memorable banner at the final two days later: "The All Blacks came forth and conquered. The Aussies just came fourth".

Auckland was transformed for the final. Just a month after the halfhearted turnout to the tournament opener, the atmosphere at the ground and around the city was electric.

The All Blacks were amazed by the huge throng yelling support for them outside their Takapuna hotel as they left for Eden Park. Flanker AJ Whetton remembers the lift he and his teammates got from such a vibrant show of emotion, not normally part of the New Zealand supporters' makeup.

The French were in the game early on but were ground down by a complete All Blacks performance and the after-effects of that epic win over Australia.

The game was decided within five minutes in the second spell. A fine team try was finished off by Kirk and from the kick off the little halfback brilliantly set up the match winner by Kirwan in the corner.

That ended any lingering French resistance and the All Blacks thoroughly deserved their 29-9 victory.

1987 Tournament results

Pool one
May 23, at Concord Oval, Sydney: Australia 19 (David Campese, Simon Poidevin tries; Michael Lynagh con, 3 pen) England 7 (Mike Harrison try; Jonathan Webb pen). Referee: Keith Lawrence (New Zealand).

May 24, at Ballymore, Brisbane: United States 21 (Ray Nelson, Mike Purcell, Gary Lambert tries; Nelson 3 con, pen) Japan 18 (Nofomuli Taumoefolau 2, Kojiro Yoshinaga tries; Yoshinaga, Eiji Kutsuki pens). Referee: Guy Maurette (France).

May 30, at Concord Oval: England 60 (Harrison 3, Rory Underwood 2, Jamie Salmon, Dean Richards, Nigel Redman, Gary Rees, Kevin Simms tries; Webb 7 con, 2 pen) Japan 7 (Katsufumi Miyamoto try; Katsuhiro Matsuo pen). Referee: Rene Hourquet (France).

May 31, at Ballymore: Australia 47 (Andrew Leeds 2, penalty try, Campese, Brian Smith, Andrew Slack, Brett Papworth, David Codey tries; Lynagh 6 con, pen) United States 12 (Nelson try; Nelson con, pen; Dave Horton drop goal). Referee: Brian Anderson (Scotland).

June 3, at Concord Oval: Australia 42 (Slack 2, Matthew Burke 2, Steve Tuynman, Peter Grigg, Mark Hartill, Campese tries; Lynagh 5 con) Japan 23 (Kutsuki 2, Tsuyoshi Fujita tries; Minoru Okidoi con, pen, drop goal). Referee: Jim Fleming (Scotland).

June 3, at Concord Oval: England 34 (Peter Winterbottom 2, Harrison, Wade Dooley tries; Webb 3 con, 4 pen) United States 6 (Purcell try; Nelson con). Referee: Kerry Fitzgerald (Australia).

Pool two
May 24, at McLean Park, Napier: Canada 37 (Pat Palmer 2, Paul Vaesen 2, Ian Stuart, penalty try, Rob Frame tries; Mark Wyatt 2, Gareth Rees con; Rees pen) Tonga 4 (Fakahau Valu try). Referee: Clive Norling (Wales).

May 25, at Athletic Park, Wellington: Wales 13 (Mark Ring try; Paul Thorburn pen; Jonathan Davies 2 drop goals) Ireland 6 (Mike Kieman 2 pen). Referee: Kerry Fitzgerald (Australia).

May 29, at Showgrounds, Palmerston North: Wales 29 (Glenn Webbe 3, Adrian Hadley tries; Thorburn 2 con, 2 pen; Davies drop goal) Tonga 16 (Qudous Fielea, Talai Fifita tries; Alamoni Liava'a con, pen; Aasaeli Amone pen). Referee: David Bishop (New Zealand).

May 30, at Carisbrook, Dunedin: Ireland 46 (Keith Crossan 2, Michael Bradley, Brian Spillane, Trevor Ringland, Hugo MacNeill tries; Kieman 5 con, 2 pen, drop goal; Tony Ward drop goal) Canada 19 (Mark Cardinal try; Rees 3 pen, drop goal; Wyatt pen). Referee: Fred Howard (England).

June 3, at Ballymore: Ireland 32 (Brendan Mullin 3, MacNeill 2 tries; Ward 3 con, 2 pen) Tonga 9 (Amone 3 pen). Referee: Guy Maurette (France).

June 3, at Rugby Park, Invercargill: Wales 40 (Ieuan Evans 4, John Devereux, Bleddyn Bowen, Hadley, Kevin Phillips tries; Thorburn 4 con) Canada 9 (Rees 3 pen). Referee: David Bishop (New Zealand).

Pool three
May 22, at Eden Park: New Zealand 70 (John Kirwan 2, David Kirk 2, Craig Green 2, penalty try, Michael Jones, Warwick Taylor, Steve McDowell, Joe Stanley, Alan Whetton tries; Grant Fox 8 con, 2 pen) Italy 6 (Oscar Collodo pen, drop goal). Referee: Bob Fordham (Australia).

May 24, at Rugby Park, Hamilton: Fiji 28 (Peceli Gale, Salacieli Naivilawasa, Kavekini Nalaga, Ilaitia Savai tries; Severo Koroduadua 2 con, 2 pen; Elia Rokowailoa con) Argentina 9 (penalty try; Hugo Porta con, pen). Referee: Jim Fleming (Scotland).

May 27, at Lancaster Park, Christchurch: New Zealand 74 (John Gallagher 4, Green 4, Kirk, Kirwan, penalty try, Whetton tries; Fox 10 con, 2 pen) Fiji 13 (Jioji Cama try; Koroduadua 3 pen). Referee: Derek Bevan (Wales).

May 28, at Lancaster Park: Argentina 25 (Juan Lanza, Fabio Gomez tries; Porta con, 5 pen) Italy 16 (Marzio Innocenti, Marcello Cuttitta tries; Collodo con, 2 pen). Referee: Roger Quittenton (England).

May 31, at Carisbrook: Italy 18 (Cuttitta, Giancarlo Cucchiella, Massimo Mascioletti tries; Collodo pen, drop goal) Fiji 15 (Naivilawasa try; Koroduadua con, 2 pen; MaNasa Quro drop goal). Referee: Keith Lawrence (New Zealand).

June 1, at Athletic Park: New Zealand 46 (Kirk, Zinzan Brooke, Andy Earl, Kieran Crowley, Whetton tries; Fox 2 con, 6 pen) Argentina 15 (Lanza try; Porta con, 3 pen). Referee: Roger Quittenton (England).

Pool four
May 23, at Eden Park: Romania 21 (Mircea Paraschiv, Marcel Toader, Liviu Hodorca tries; Dumitru Alexandru 3 pen) Zimbabwe 20 (Richard Tsimba 2, Mark Neill tries; Andy Ferreira con, 2 pen). Referee: Stephen Hilditch (Ireland).

May 23, at Lancaster Park: France 20 (Philippe Sella, Pierre Berbizier, Serge Blanco tries; Blanco con, 2 pen) Scotland 20 (Derek White, Matt Duncan tries; Gavin Hastings 4 pen). Referee: Fred Howard (England).

May 28, at Athletic Park: France 55 (Patrice Lagisquet 2, Denis Charvet 2, Sella, Marc Andrieu, Didier Camberabero, Dominque Erbani, Guy Laporte tries; Laporte 8 con, pen) Romania 12 (Romeo Bezuscu 4 pen). Referee: Bob Fordham (Australia).

May 30, at Athletic Park: Scotland 60 (Alan Tait 2, Iwan Tukalo 2, Duncan 2, Iain Paxton 2, Greig Oliver, Hastings, John Jeffrey tries; Hastings 8 con) Zimbabwe 21 (Dirk Buitendag tries; Marthinus Grobler con, pen). Referee: David Burnett (Ireland).

June 2, at Carisbrook: Scotland 55 (Jeffrey 3, Tait 2, Hastings 2, Duncan, Tukalo tries; Hastings 8 con, pen) Romania 28 (Florica Murariu 2, Toader tries; Alexandru con 3 pen; Vasile Ion con, pen). Referee: Stephen Hilditch (Ireland).

June 2, at Eden Park: France 70 (Rodolphe Modin 3, Camberabero 3, Charvet 2, Layrent Rodriguez 2, Daniel Dubroca, Patrick Esteve, Laporte tries; Camberabero 9 con) Zimbabwe 12 (Peter Kaulbach try; Grobler con, 2 pen). Referee: Derek Bevan (Wales).

June 6, at Lancaster Park: New Zealand 30 (Whetton, Gallagher tries; Fox 2 con, 6 pen) Scotland 3 (Hastings pen). Referee: David Burnett (Ireland).

June 7, at Concord Oval: Australia 33 (Burke 2, Andrew McIntyre, Smith tries; Lynagh 4 con, 3 pen) Ireland 15 (MacNeill, Kieman tries; Kieman 2 con, pen). Referee: Brian Anderson (Scotland).

June 7, at Eden Park: France 31 (Rodriguez 2, Alain Lorieux, Lagisquet tries; Laporte 3 con, 2 pen, drop goal) Fiji 16 (Quro, Jimi Damu tries; Koroduadua con, 2 pen). Referee: Clive Norling (Wales).

June 8, at Ballymore: Wales 16 (Gareth Roberts, Robert Jones, Devereux tries; Thorburn 2 con) England 3 (Webb pen). Referee: Rene Hourquet (France).

June 13, at Concord Oval: France 30 (Lorieux, Sella, Lagisquet, Blanco tries; Camberabero 4 con, 2 pen) Australia 24 (Campese, Codey tries; Lynagh 2 con, 3 pen, drop goal). Referee: Brian Anderson (Scotland).

June 14, at Ballymore: New Zealand 49 (Kirwan 2, Wayne Shelford 2, John Drake, Whetton, Stanley, Mark Brooke-Cowden tries; Fox 7 con, pen) Wales 6 (Devereux try; Thorburn con). Referee: Kerry Fitzgerald (Australia).

Third place play-off
June 18, at Rotorua International Stadium: Wales 22 (Roberts, Paul Moriarty, Hadley tries; Thorburn 2 con, 2 pen) Australia 21 (Burke, Grigg tries; Lynagh 2 con, 2 pen, drop goal). Referee: Fred Howard (England).

June 20, at Eden Park: New Zealand 29 (Jones, Kirk, Kirwan tries; Fox con, 4 pen, drop goal) France 9 (Berbizier try; Camberabero con, pen). Referee: Kerry Fitzgerald (Australia).

Top point scorer: 126 - Grant Fox, All Blacks

Top try scorer: 6 - Craig Green and John Kirwan

Highest score: 74 - All Blacks v Fiji

Biggest winning margin: 64 - (All Blacks 70 Italy 6)

Most tries in a match: 13 - France (v Zimbabwe)

Video: Great World Cup moments - 1987
In the beginning: Remembering our last victory drink
How we won: The All Blacks - Getting the nation back into black
Setting the scene: Long road to global rugby supremacy
A sending off that made Wallaby history
All Black memories: 'Dawn of a new era'
Tournament star: Michael Jones - Keeping up with Jones
Tournament action: Fans' lukewarm start fast turned to fervour

Video: Great World Cup moments - 1991
How we won: The Wallabies - Defeats led to success
Aussie's winning mindset
'Beaten by a better team'
Tournament action: Fitter, faster England level the playing field
After long string of wins it was a bridge too far
Tournament star: David Campese - Campo's golden touch

- NZ Herald

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