To get to the line, a little flair is all it takes

John Kirwan weaves through the Italian defence in 1987.
Photo / Photosport
John Kirwan weaves through the Italian defence in 1987. Photo / Photosport

The greatest RWC tries

Takudzwa Ngwenya v South Africa, 2007
Bryan Habana's blistering pace has been a key element in the Springbok armoury of the past decade.

But when South Africa met the United States back in 2007, Habana was taken to school by little-known winger Takudzwa Ngwenya.

Like many of the best tries, Ngwenya's score of the 2007 tournament started with a tryline intercept and included a deft offload from a lumbering tight forward, before the addition of a massive hopeful chuck of the ball. But the coup de grace of the movement comes when Habana, one of the game's foremost veterans, is left standing still by the American winger, born and raised in Zimbabwe, who grew up idolising the Springboks.

John Kirwan v Italy, 1987
The granddaddy of them all. It looked like the first Rugby World Cup was starting with a bit of a fizzle - confirming the gloomy predictions for the tournament offered by northern hemisphere "experts".

The tournament didn't even have a proper first try-scorer to salute - the Rugby World Cup's first four-pointer came courtesy of a penalty try. Michael Jones raised spirits when he pounced moments later but something else was needed. Something special.

Enter John Kirwan. The giant winger was 10 metres off his own tryline when he took the ball from Grant Fox and burst into space. He was too strong for the forwards and too fast for the backs, blazing a trail to the tryline to take the All Blacks past the 50-point mark for the first time in tests. With deft sidesteps, outright gas, heavy fends and not a little help from a tiny left winger more interested in flapping his arms about like a Roman traffic cop than dying for the Azzurri cause, "JK" set the World Cup alight.

Rupeni Caucaunibuca v France, 2003
The loosest of loose cannons, Rupeni Caucaunibuca's flame burnt bright and fast - he played just 13 Super rugby games for the Blues and a handful of tests.

But at the 2003 World Cup, fans saw one of the most untouchable talents in his prime.

Caucaunibuca, then 22, bagged eight tries in four matches at the tournament, almost beating Scotland on his own. But it wasn't the volume of tries the guy scored, it was the way he scored them; his perfect balance and blazing pace left tacklers clutching at air. Like Christian Cullen, Caucaunibuca could make a wide swerve without losing a pinch of speed.

Many who saw him play maintain Caucaunibuca was the most naturally gifted attacker the game had ever seen.

The 2003 try he scored for Fiji against France took the cake. The final score was 61-18 to France but when Caucaunibuca smoked his opposite winger, the No 8 and the fullback without raising a sweat, he made his mark.

He has since battled disciplinary trouble, weight issues and drug abuse but the biggest problem with Caucaunibuca is that he never really gave a damn.

Tim Horan v All Blacks 1991
Midfielder Tim Horan bagged the try but David Campese deserves the plaudits for this one.

Of all the World Cup tries we celebrate, this was perhaps the most significant, opening up, as it did, an era of All Black Cup failure.

Campese had already scored a belter, turning John Kirwan inside-out on his way to the line. But when the flying Wallaby ran on to a Michael Lynagh chip kick, All Black prospects darkened.

With two defenders closing in, Campese threw an unsighted pass over his shoulder straight into the hands of Horan, who crossed untouched for the try that sealed New Zealand's fate.

Many commentators felt it was a lucky pass, suggesting Campese couldn't have possibly known Horan was in support.

Unencumbered by humility, Campo put them right. "I knew Tim was there, I was just trying to suck the winger in and the next thing I knew I was looking up the ground to see Tim putting the ball down."

Serge Blanco v Australia, 1987
Serge Blanco, with joie de vivre, the rakish charm of a Mediterranean gigolo and a 60-a-day cigarette habit, had long been the coolest man in world rugby. His try in Rotorua to eliminate the Wallabies in the final minute of their 1987 semifinal, stands as an iconic moment.

Two-and-a-bit decades later, we know the French have a knack for playing their final before the actual final - and it's not surprising that when they got to Eden Park for the 1987 decider, there wasn't much left in the emotional fuel tank.

France came from behind three times on their way to a 30-24 victory over the pre-tournament favourites and by the time Blanco struck the killer blow, many players were dead on their feet - the final passing movement went over a player who looks actually dead.

With the scores tied at 24-24, a relentless French counter-attack immersed the exhausted Wallabies in Gallic chaos. Philippe Sella was involved, Laurent Rodriguez - the big No 8 with a face and frame for the Foreign Legion - threw two key passes. Blanco finished the movement and celebrated on his knees, fist raised in triumph, summing up the mood of those who saw it.

Joe Rokocoko v South Africa, 2003
This was a pretty straight-forward finish for the Rocketman, but who throws no-look between the legs passes against the Springboks in World Cup knockout matches? Carlos Spencer, that's who.

The ball comes to Spencer on a blindside dash and the pass is a little behind him. He's unsighted, but the Toffee Pop kid somehow knows a tackler has rushed up, shutting down the chance for a regulation pass. Instead, it's through the legs and straight into the mitts of Joe Rokocoko.

Jonah Lomu v England, 1995
Mike Catt wasn't a bad footy player. He played a key role in England's World Cup-winning side of 2003.

But as the Middle Ages are forever linked to bubonic plague and Nuremburg to a short man with a trim moustache, throw the word "Catt" into a rugby conversation and the response will be "Lomu".

(If you're a fan of Keith Quinn's on-air Lomugasm, have a listen to the English commentary of the same game which describes Rob Andrew as "One of the greatest defensive flyhalves ever seen".)

- NZ Herald

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