Rugby World Cup: Five classic games from past tournaments
By Tom Mordey | Twitter: @TomMordey |
Last Updated: 17/09/15 6:26am
We look back on five of the best Rugby World Cup games, ahead of the opening fixture at Twickenham this weekend.
There have been some brilliant matches in the history of the Rugby World Cup - stunning upsets, tense encounters and games lit up by moments of true individual brilliance.
Fans will hope the 2015 edition will provide something similar. It's hard to pick out the greatest game since the tournament began, given the variety and quality of the matches, but to whet your appetite, we've given it a go with our top five games of truly sensational, mesmerising rugby...
France 30-24 Australia - Semi-Final, 1987
The Rugby World Cup is often lit up by the unpredictability of the French, a trend begun in the first very edition of the tournament. France met Australia in the semi-final in Sydney, having scraped to the top of their pool despite drawing with Scotland.
Hosts Australia, in contrast, were the pre-tournament favourites and had waltzed past England in the groups and Ireland in the quarters to make it this far. They seemed certain to set up a final showdown with New Zealand, and led early on, Michael Lynagh booting them into a 9-0 lead.
But France kept touch through the kicking of Didier Camberabero. Both sides traded tries too; David Campese and David Codey both crossing for Australia, while Alain Lorieuz, Philippe Sella and Patrice Lagisquet all went over for France.
But Lynagh had missed a couple of crucial penalties and late in the game, Camberabero made him pay, slotting his fourth of the game to make it 24-24. So Sydney looked set for extra-time - until France produced one of the moments of Gallic flair that characterises their rugby.
Deep in Australian territory, they ran the ball, putting it through 11 pairs of hands before it finished with Serge Blanco diving over in the corner to seal a memorable win.
Australia 19-18 Ireland - Quarter-Final, 1991
The Irish have never been past the quarter-finals in Rugby World Cup history, but one particular defeat probably hurts a little more than the rest.
Having finished second in their pool behind Scotland, no one fancied Ireland to beat Australia in the last eight, despite the advantage of having the Lansdowne Road faithful behind them. Sure enough, Australia took control of the game, two David Campese tries and the boot of Michael Lynagh putting them in front.
Ireland kept in touch though, through the boot of Ralph Keyes, and they trailed 15-12 going into the last five minutes. But then came one of the best tries the Dublin stadium had ever seen, flanker Gordon Hamilton collecting an offload before racing through to touch down for what seemed to be a quarter-final winning try.
Keyes added the conversion and, with the Irish crowd ready to celebrate, Australia kicked off, three points behind. But from there, they won a scrum deep in Irish territory.
The backs moved the ball wide, freeing Campese who was stopped just short. But he popped the ball up and Lynagh, in support, touched down to break Irish hearts. Australia went on to beat England in the final.
France 43-31 New Zealand - Semi-Final, 1999
Never mind greatest World Cup games, this semi-final encounter between France and New Zealand at Twickenham is possibly the greatest game of all time. New Zealand had battered their way past England and Scotland to get here, while France had scraped past Fiji in the pools and then beaten a tired Argentina side in the next round.
But early on, Les Bleus gave New Zealand an early warning sign, Christophe Dominici's break finally finished off by fly half Christophe Lamaison. New Zealand then took control, partly due to a certain Jonah Lomu, who threatened to do to France what he did to England at the same stage four years before.
The giant winger crossed twice, swatting off a host of French defenders on both occasions, and New Zealand looked home and dry at 24-10 up. But no one could have predicted what was to come.
First, Lamaison, who was only in the side because of Thomas Castaignede's injury, dropped two goals and kicked two penalties to ensure he completed a full house. And then came the hammer blow - three quick tries.
The first came from Dominici, who collected a box kick to race clear. Then came a brilliant bit of improvisation from Lamaison, who chipped over the top for Richard Dourthe to collect. Shortly after, New Zealand dropped the ball attacking in the French half, flanker Olivier Magne fly-hacked through, allowing Philippe Bernat-Salles to touch down and kill New Zealand off completely.
Jeff Wilson did go over for a consolation try, but France had already done the damage, completing a famous 43-31 win.
New Zealand 53-37 Wales - Pool Stage, 2003
Both New Zealand and Wales had already qualified from Pool D in 2003, but then-Wales Coach Steve Hansen took the unusual decision to rest several key players in the last game against New Zealand, believing defeat in Sydney inevitable.
So, with a potential quarter-final against favourites England looming, Wales took to the field against the All Blacks expecting a hammering. What happened next was truly mesmerising. The script went to plan early on; Joe Rokocoko with two early tries, though Mark Taylor did reply for Wales. And when Leon MacDonald and Ali Williams both crossed, a cricket score looked on the cards.
But before half-time, Wales removed the shackles and went for it. Inspired by a fresh-faced Shane Williams, they scored twice in six minutes, Williams dancing clear to set up Sonny Parker before Colin Charvis crashed over from short range. Stephen Jones cut the gap to one with a penalty at the start of the second half, and then Williams danced his way over to give them the lead. Despite a Doug Howlett try, another Jones penalty extended Wales' lead to 37-33.
But with 20 minutes to go, they ran out of steam, Carlos Spencer put New Zealand back in front, before a second try for Howlett and one from Aaron Mauger eventually sealed a remarkable win for a New Zealand side who were given an almighty scare.
Fiji 38-34 Wales - Pool Stage, 2007
If Wales were the ones threatening to do the giant-killing in 2003, four years later, they were on the end of a major shock themselves. Australia had already topped Pool B, leaving Wales and Fiji to slug it out in the final game in Nantes to secure a quarter-final spot.
Stephen Jones gave Wales the lead with an early penalty, but they spurned a few decent opportunities and Fiji made them pay. Akapusi Qera got on the end of a flowing move, before Fiji showed how dangerous they can be with a stunning long-range effort.
Nicky Little and Seru Rabeni attacked from deep before Vilimoni Delasau chipped the defence and collected a wicked bounce to race clear and score. Two Little penalties extended the lead, before Qera broke from his own half, eventually allowing Kele Leawere to go over from close range. Stunned, Wales hit back, Alix Popham crossing from a scrum before Qera was sin-binned on the stroke of half-time.
Wales took advantage after the break, Shane Williams with a magnificent individual effort from inside his own half before Gareth Thomas crossed for his 40th try on his 100th cap for Wales. And they recaptured the lead soon after when Mark Jones went over in the corner. Fiji weren't finished yet though.
Little slotted two penalties to win back the lead and only sensational defence from Thomas stopped Seremaia Bai going over. Fiji hunted for the kill, but Little's looping pass was picked off by Martyn Williams who raced home for what looked like a match-winning interception try.
But the Pacific Islanders had other ideas. They re-grouped and attacked again, setting up an opportunity for prop Graham Dewes to crash over. The video referee confirmed the try and a stunning upset was complete, sending Wales home early.