Top 10 memorable matches of 2011

Israel Dagg sets up Ma'a Nonu for the only try in the Rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Israel Dagg sets up Ma'a Nonu for the only try in the Rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A look back at the top 10 sporting contests of the year.

Taipans 85 Breakers 81
After three forgettable quarters the second game of the ANBL finals quickly turned into an instant classic. Many basketball fans lacked productivity the following morning after game two in Cairns became the first in finals history to head into double overtime.

CJ Bruton sent the game into the first overtime with a clutch three-pointer in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. But there was more drama to come. The Breakers took control of the game in overtime and looked to have secured their maiden title when Kirk Penney drained two free throws to give them a three point lead with five seconds left. As the Breakers bench prepared to celebrate Ron Dorsey sunk a 28 foot three on the buzzer to send the game into double OT. The Taipans rode the momentum to keep the series alive only for the Breakers to eventually win their first title on home court five days later.

Warriors 22 Tigers 20
When the Warriors were handed a heavy 40-10 thrashing by the Broncos in their opening game of the NRL playoffs not many people would have predicted the side would make the grand final three weeks later let alone get past the Tigers, who had won nine straight, in the semifinals.

The Warriors' magical ride into the final began with a 78th minute try by Krisnan Inu that sealed a dramatic two point win over the Tigers. The try capped off a comeback from 18-6 down at the break. The countless video ref replays of Inu's try added to the drama before the green light was given - setting up the Warriors path to the final which was cemented with another dramatic win over the Storm a week later.

Black Caps beat South Africa by 49 runs
Chasing 222 to knock the Black Caps out of the Cricket World Cup, South Africa appeared to be coasting at 108-2 in the 24th over. But the Proteas added another chapter to their notorious history as World Cup chokers when they lost their last eight wickets for just 64 runs to fall well short of the target.

The defeat brought a bitter end to Graeme Smith's tenure as South African captain while Black Caps' skipper Daniel Vettori's reign extended one more match before his side went down to Sri Lanka.

Reds 17 Crusaders 16
In a prequel to the Super 15 final, the Reds and Crusaders provided a test-match like showdown during round 15 in front of the biggest Australian crowd in Super Rugby history. The competition leaders and the seven-time champions went toe-to-toe for a pulsating 80 minutes and it looked like the Crusaders dream road run was continue when Dan Carter kicked his side into the lead with a penalty seven minutes from time.

However Richie McCaw was penalised right in front of the posts by Australian referee Stu Dickinson and Quade Cooper slotted the penalty to secure the win for the Reds.

Ireland 15 Australia 6
Cooper went from hero to zero four months later when he, and the entire Wallabies pack, failed to shine in Australia's all-important Rugby World Cup pool match against Ireland at Eden Park. The Irish forwards dominated the Tri-Nations champions at scrumtime as Jonathan Sexton kicked three penalties and a drop goal in front of a green-tinged Eden Park crowd. The win put Ireland in pole position in pool C and left Australia with the impossible task of beating South Africa and the All Blacks just to reach the final.

It wasn't a pretty game, thanks partly to referee Bryce Lawrence' constant and premature blasts on his whistle, but many New Zealand fans took joy out of watching the Wallabies struggle on Eden Park turf yet again.

Brisbane Roar 4 Central Coast Mariners 2
The winner for the Comeback of the Year award, after going 27 matches unbeaten the Roar trailed the Mariners 2-0 heading the final four minutes of extra-time in the A-League grand final. After being locked at 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes the Mariners scored twice in extra-time and were heading on course to record a maiden title.

The minor premiers however sent the match to an unlikely penalty shootout when first Henrique scored with three minutes left before Erik Paartalu headed in a corner in the final play of the match. Roar goalie Michael Theoklitos then make two saves in the shootout to cap off a remarkable season for Brisbane.

New South Wales 18 Queensland 8
Yes Queensland won their sixth straight State of Origin series but the performance of this year's series went to New South Wales who rode out an early assault by the Canetoads to force a game three decider. Queensland had enough chances to be 24-0 up after 20 minutes, which they went onto do in Game three, but only went into the break up 8-6.

Rookie William Hopoate put the Blues in front after the break and with Queensland trailing 12-8 with minutes remaining Greg Inglis dropped the ball deep inside his own half with an empty field in front of him. In the 77th minute Anthony Minichiello, playing in his first Origin game since 2007, capped off the victory with a try to make it 18-8. Paul Gallen produced one of the great Origin performances playing a full 80 minutes at prop including 31 tackles and 27 runs for more than 200 metres. Queensland bounced back to give captain Darren Lockyer perfect send off with a 34-24 win in game three.

Silver Ferns 57 Australia 58
It was deja as the Silver Ferns and Australia clashed in yet another world netball championship final with the match going into extra-time. New Zealand held a six-goal lead at halftime but once again Australia staged a fightback to make it 46-46 at fulltime. The score was still level after the first period of seven minutes. And again heading into the final minute it was still even stevens.

New Zealand's hero in last year's Commonwealth Games victory Maria Tutaia then missed a long shot and Australia swiftly moved down court to sink the winner seconds later.

All Blacks 20 Australia 6
It was a tense week leading up the Rugby World Cup semifinal between old rivals as fans from both countries knew that the winner would be odds on to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup seven days later. The Wallabies were out to break a 25 year hoodoo at Eden Park while the All Blacks were attempting to beat Australia for the first time ever at a World Cup. The All Blacks had the perfect start when some individual brilliance by Israel Dagg set up Ma'a Nonu for a try in the sixth minute. They then slowly squeezed the life out of the Wallabies in an intense and thrilling encounter as both sides traded drop-goals and penalties before Piri Weepu closed out the win for two second half penalties.

Finally the All Blacks were through to another World Cup final and with the Aussies out of the way they were set to cruise to their second World Cup title against the lowly ranked French. Well that was the plan.

Black Caps beat Australia by seven runs
Another drought breaker for New Zealand sports fans following the World Cup victory and the Breakers ANBL title. The Black Caps looked heading for yet another test defeat to Australia midway through the opening session on the fourth day in Hobart but Doug Bracewell stepped up to rip through the Australian batting order to secure the Black Caps' first test win in Australia in 26 years.

One of the great test turnarounds after the Black Caps were sent into bat on a green pitch and were dismissed for just 150 on day one.

Honourable mentions
Arsenal 5 Chelsea 3
South Africa 13 Samoa 5
Tonga 19 France 14

Most memorable matches of 2010

- HERALD ONLINE/NZ HERALD

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