The Herald runs through the 19 greatest moments in the history of the Rugby World Cup.
19 - Bryan Habana outpaced by Takudzwa Ngwenya, 2007
Takudzwa Ngwenya will always be remembered as the man who did what no one thought was possible: beat legendary Springboks winger Bryan Habana in a foot race on rugby's international stage. During his career, Habana was mythologised as the fastest man in the game, even once managing to hold off a cheetah in a race – albeit with a 35m head start. But in 2007, Habana was out-sprinted by a qualified radiologist simply known as 'Z' in South Africa's pool matchup against the USA Eagles. As the Springboks, who took out the game 64-15 easily, pressed on for another try, Eagles captain Todd Clever intercepted a loose pass close to his own line before linking up with a few teammates to spread it wide to Ngwenya. The Zimbabwean-born winger – who was timed at 10.5 for the 100m early in his career – then decided to take Habana on and ended up leaving the Springbok winger flat-footed and left for dead to finish off the sensational try.
18 - Australia knock out England in pool play, 2015
There are pools of death and then there is Pool A at the 2015 Rugby World where Australia, England and Wales were all ranked in the top five on the eve of the event. Wales were ranked ninth at the timing of the World Cup draw in 2012 but by the time of the 2015 tournament they had improved to fifth while Australia (second) and England (fourth) were also among top contenders for the title. With home advantage on their side, there were big expectations for England to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time but instead they produced their worst ever performance at a World Cup. After a less than convincing win over Fiji in the opening game, England were defeated by Wales 28-25 at Twickenham coughing up a 25-18 lead with nine minutes to play. It meant England faced in a must-win pool game against Australia a week later. 'In the case of English management, three and a half years of planning coming down to this," said official commentator Alastair Eykyn as England ran out. Australia dominated the match led by Bernard Foley who scored 17 points in the first half including two tries. England then forged a comeback cutting the scoreline to 20-13 with 10 minutes to play before Australia eventually ran out 33-13 winners leaving England in the awkward position of having to play one more pool match against Uruguay despite being knocked out of their own tournament.
17 - All Blacks thrash France, 2015
Before the quarter-final in Cardiff there was plenty of talk about the last quarter-final at the same venue when France shocked the All Blacks eight years earlier. But Richie McCaw's side made up for that result with a 62-13 thrashing. It began with a Brodie Retallick charge down and the lock running 30 metres to score. Every All Blacks try seemed to get more spectacular from a deft Dan Carter offload to set up Julian Savea to a Ben Smith high ball catch that also led to a Savea try, this one seeing him take the route one approach and barnstorming over five French defenders. In the second half even All Blacks props were running freely with both Charlie Faumuina and Joe Moody play their part in setting up tries. In the end, the All Blacks ran in nine tries to one and the demons of Cardiff were allayed in style.
16 - Jannie de Beer kicks five drop goals, 1999
Three words will always be associated with Jannie De Beer – "five drop goals". The Springboks No. 10 was not supposed to play in the 1999 quarterfinal against England, in Paris, but an injury to Henry Honiball changed all that. Three rapid-fire pots and two more late in the game guided the 'Boks to a 44-21 victory, only for a unique drop goal from Aussie Stephen Larkham to deny South Africa in the semifinals. The world record haul was part of a perfect 12-from 12 kicking day for De Beer, who notched an incredible 34 points. De Beer credits teammate Brendan Venter for the drop goal plan. South Africa realised England's systems would give noted kicker De Beer plenty of space. The tournament was de Beer's Springbok swan song. Years later he told ESPN that rugby was not a big part in his life anymore, although he still loved it and watched major knockout matches.
15 - Ireland beat Australia, 2011
One of the best games of the 2011 World Cup was a try-less, scrappy forwards battle at a rainy Eden Park. The Wallabies went into the clash against Ireland as Tri-Nations champs and as one of the tournament favourites, while the Northerners were coming off the back of four warm-up game losses and a lacklustre win over the USA. But the fickle nature of form was once again tossed aside on the magical World Cup stage as Ireland out-fought and out-played Australia to claim a famous upset victory. The win meant Ireland ended up topping their pool for the first time in their history. However, they would later fall to Wales in the quarters, while Australia beat South Africa to make the semifinal – something Ireland still haven't been able to do.
14 – Australia beat Ireland, 1991
Australia, on the way to their first World Cup crown, were so nearly eliminated in this pulsating quarter-final. Unfancied Ireland led 18 – 15 with five minutes remaining, after flanker Gordon Hamilton went on a 40 metre run to score his only test try. He was mobbed by fans on the field, but the glory was short lived. Australia took a quick tap penalty, and first five-eighths Michael Lyngah wrestled his way over the try line near the corner. "Deathly silence," is how Lynagh later described the crowd reaction. "You think there's something wrong and then you realise the crowd were just stunned into silence".
13 - Tonga beat France in pool play, 2011
France, who the All Blacks nervously put away in the final, showed how dangerous they could be at the 2011 tournament. But on one special evening in Wellington, the men in blue were blown away by a red wave in what is still one of the greatest upsets in Rugby World Cup history. Led by their superb halfback Taniela Moa, Tonga completely overwhelmed France with their brand of physical defence and relentless running rugby. The 19-14 scoreline ultimately flattered the French as Tonga, ranked 13th in the world, fumbled a few chances which should have put them up by a lot more. Tonga didn't end up doing enough to keep their hopes of progressing in the tournament alive, but the memory of New Zealand's capital painted in fiery red still lives on.
12 - Culhane's kicking day, 1995
21 attempts. 20 conversions. 4 June 1995 was some day for the All Blacks as they piled on the tries against Japan during their final pool game in Bloemfontein - the first ever meeting between the two nations. The All Blacks ran in 21 tries with Marc Ellis leading the way with a World Cup record six. Eric Rush and Jeff Wilson collected hat-tricks while Robin Brooke and Glen Osborne also picked up doubles. 10 All Blacks managed to get on the scoresheet with Ant Strachan, Norm Hewitt, Blair Larsen, Kevin Schuler and Zinzan Brooke the unlucky five from the starting XV who didn't score a try. Culhane finished with 45 points, 20 conversions and a try - the only miss coming after an Osborne try to start to second half. It was Culhane's debut test for the All Blacks and he played five more over the following year including a 20-point performance against Italy. A week earlier, Scotland first-five Gavin Hastings set the record for most points scored in a World Cup match with 44 against Ivory Coast. Culhane's record of 45 points remains the benchmark.
11 - That quarter-final in Cardiff, 2007
One of the great World Cup upsets. France piled into their tackles, making about 200 during the match, to keep the All Blacks at bay for a 20–18 victory in Cardiff. The magnificent Thierry Dusautoir led the way, as France – whose defence was organised by league coach Dave Ellis – made it difficult for the All Blacks to get their passes away. Controversy raged for many years afterwards – particularly in New Zealand - about some of referee Wayne Barnes' decisions. But the All Blacks had plenty of opportunities to win it in the final minutes. With Dan Carter – injured during the match - watching from the grandstand, the All Blacks failed to conjure up a drop goal. And this fueled their desire to be better prepared at future World Cups. At the end of the day, it was another dramatic match in the fantastic World Cup rivalry between New Zealand and France.
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10 - Kirwan's try v Italy, 1987
When John Kirwan crossed over in the righthand corner in front of the terraces at Eden Park in the 1987 tournament opener, Italy looked done. But Kirwan wasn't. More magic was to come. Kirwan's first try at the World Cup gave the All Blacks a commanding 48-0 lead. After a respectable 17-3 halftime deficit, Italy fell apart in the second half as the All Blacks seemed to score tries at ease. The following kickoff went to David Kirk, then to Grant Fox who passed back inside to Kirwan, who received the ball just inside his own 22. The All Blacks' number 14 spotted a gap and ran straight. And kept running. He eventually evaded seven Italian tackles to score one of the great individual All Black tries. "And what a way to bring up 50 points in a rugby test for the first time," said commentator Keith Quinn as Kirwan dived over. The rugby world was on notice as the hosts laid down the marker before going onto claim the title at the same ground a month later.
9 - Wallabies win in extra-time, 1999
When you think 1999 semifinal it's the France shock comeback over the All blacks that comes to mind but the other semi was just as thrilling - despite it's lack of tries. South Africa and Australia duelled for a spot in the final just like the two nations did at the Cricket World Cup months earlier. 48 points where scored between the Wallabies and Springboks but neither team crossed the line with Matt Burke and Jannie De Beer both kicking eight penalties each. Down by six points with 30 seconds left the Springboks go a penalty and instead of going for the try, took a huge risk and went for the posts. De Beer slotted in and then another penalty five minutes into injury time to force extra-time. De Beer and Burke traded penalties before Stephen Larkham slotted a drop goal from 48 metres out, his first ever in tests, to give Australia the lead. Four minutes later Burke seal the win with his eighth penalty just before the end of extra-time. It was the Springboks first ever World Cup defeat.
8 - Samoa beat Wales, 1991
Samoa 16, Wales 13. It was portrayed in some quarters as a Welsh rugby tragedy, engineered by a team of virtual nobodies in front of a 45,000 crowd at the national stadium. But the Samoan team which won this opening group match was much, much better than that. It was stacked with quality performers such as Frank Bunce – who went on to play 55 All Black tests - Brian Lima, Pat Lam, and Stephen Bachop. The engine room had some tough characters such as Peter Fatialofa and Mata'afa Keenan. Manu Samo ripped into their tackles, with three Welsh players forced off. By the end there was flag waving jubilation everywhere. The match was beamed in by satellite to big screens at Apia Park, where 15,000 people gathered to see a game that they and many others will never forget.
7 - The Donald kick, 2011
It's such a great moment a TV movie was based on it. It's not the fact that it was a straight forward penalty attempt that gave the All Blacks an 8-0 lead in the World Cup final against France. It was that it was kicked by the side's fourth rated number 10 who only weeks earlier was whitebaiting. After Dan Carter and then Colin Slade suffered tournament ending injuries it was up to 22-year-old Aaron Cruden, playing in his third test start, to wear number 10 the final as the All Blacks attempted to capture their first title since 1987. Cruden then left the field in the 34th minute with a knee injury leaving Donald, wearing a jersey too tight for his frame, to command the All Blacks backline. Six minutes into the second half he put the All Blacks up 8-0 before Thierry Dusautoir scored a minute late to close the gap to one. But the All Blacks held onto with the Donald penalty eventually being the deciding moment. 'I was pretty confident and craved to be out there...as it all unfolded in worked out," Donald told the World Rugby website in an interview in 2015.
6 - Blanco's match-winner v Australia, 1987
Australia had a very strong side, but France prevailed by 30–24 in an epic semifinal encounter. The inaugural tournament desperately needed an injection of excitement, and this game provided a classic contest and moment. Serge Blanco, one of rugby's greatest fullbacks, wriggled past Aussie hooker Tom Lawton for the deadlock-breaking winner, after 10 other Frenchmen handled in a stunning long range move at Concord Oval in Sydney. France may not have won the World Cup yet, but they figure in a lot of the really memorable moments. And Australia - this team included the legendary David Campese - can also be great entertainers. Fortunately, they came together at the right time as the World Cup concept struggled into life. "Stylish and exquisite" is how the BBC described the rugby in this semifinal. Years later, Blanco said this match was, in effect, the French final. They prepared for the big game at Eden Park by jogging at a beach and were no match for a magnificent All Black side.
5 – Japan shock South Africa, 2015
Four years later, it still feels like a weird dream. "Out of a clear blue English sky came a thunderbolt to eclipse anything the Rugby World Cup has ever seen," wrote the Guardian, after the Brave Blossoms' 34 – 23 victory. The Eddie Jones-coached Japan, who could barely provide warm-up fodder for the world's best teams for many years, had pipped the twice world champions at, yes, the Brighton Community Stadium. In every way, it was David beating Goliath. South Africa have always been built on mammoth forwards and raw boned backs. Japan are definitely not known for these attributes. Captain Michael Leitch, the Kiwi who had embraced Japanese culture many years earlier, turned down the chance to equalise with late penalties, allowing fellow New Zealander Karne Hesketh to score the last-gasp winning try. Jones hoped it would inspire young Japanese kids to take up the game. Springboks counterpart Heyneke Meyer apologised to his nation.
4 – Lomu running over Catt, 1995
It has to be one of the great sporting images. A sprawled out England fullback Mike Catt bearing the full brunt of a rampaging Jonah Lomu in the opening stages of the 1995 Rugby World Cup semifinal in Cape Town. As time ticked to just the second minute of the match, All Blacks halfback Graeme Bachop sent a wide bouncing ball out to Lomu on the left wing. The All Blacks were keen to get the big man into the game as early as possible and he obliged. First he went around Rob Andrew, then fended off a diving Will Carling before stumbling straight into the path of Catt. The Englishman went low and Lomu went straight over him to score the first of his four tries of the day in a 45-29. It was a dominant way to start a semifinal at set the tone for a one-sided match.
3 - France's semifinal comeback, 1999
France shocked the rugby world with a 43 – 31 semifinal victory over the All Blacks, in a match some rate as the most magnificent in World Cup history.It was all going so well for Taine Randell's All Blacks at Twickenham, a 24 – 10 third quarter lead suggesting they were cantering to the expected victory. France reduced the deficit to two via penalties and drop goals before unleashing a magnificent three try burst. Flyhalf Christophe Lamaison, a late addition because of injury, was in the thick of the action, with perfect goalkicking and brilliant attack. The All Blacks were shell-shocked , their only response to a 27-minute, 33-point onslaught being a late consolation try. Mighty Jonah Lomu emerged with major credit for the losers, but this was an occasion where French rugby's ability to surprise in the most magical of ways won the day.
2 - Wilkinson's winning drop goal, 2003
Jonny Wilkinson's golden strike, 30 seconds from fulltime with his less-favoured right boot, was his only dropped-goal success from four attempts in the 2003 final as England overcame the Wallabies 20-17 for their maiden title. It seemed as though England were set for the strike one phase earlier, but captain Martin Johnson mounted another charge forward, calling referee Andre Watson for an offside penalty as halfback Matt Dawson and Wilkinson got into position. With the Aussie defenders rushing up, the England number 10 cooly moved the ball to his right side and slotted it through the uprights. England thought they'd won the match in ordinary time until referee Andre Watson found a penalty against their dominant scrum and Elton Flatley converted in the last minute. Wilkinson then Flatley goaled penalties in extra time as officials began to contemplate a further 10 minutes of golden point overtime before Wilkinson's magic moment.
1 – South Africa win 1995 World Cup
It was a victory that united a nation when South African president Nelson Mandela wearing the green Springboks jersey with the gold collar - one that had been hated by the black and Coloured populations as a symbol of the apartheid era - handed the World Cup trophy over to South African captain Francois Pienaar. Minutes earlier Joel Stransky broke New Zealand hearts with an extra-time drop goal to secure a 15-12 victory and South Africa's first World Cup title in their maiden tournament. As a final it was a great spectacle but not exactly a great match. Stransky and All Blacks number 10 Andrew Mehrtens were the only two on the scoresheet as it came down to drop goal attempts in extra-time. South Africa did well to negate All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu who had dominated every opponent in the tournament including four in the semifinal thrashing of England. Yes a number of All Blacks were unwell on the day of the final, but regardless a New Zealand victory wouldn't have made the same impact and topped this list in being the greatest moment in the history of the World Cup.