Five Iconic Men’s Rugby Union Matches
Rugby union is increasingly a global sport, spreading from the UK and Europe to gain support in South Africa, the Pacific, Asia and South America in particular.
While it is often the case that smaller nations struggle to compete with the long-established rugby nations, according to Irishluck.ie, rugby fans and rugby betting aficionados have discovered in recent years, that shocks and surprises are increasingly possible.
That’s why among the list of iconic international rugby union games, the victories of nations such as Argentina and Japan have earned a special place. Here are five of the most significant rugby union games from the Rugby World Cups and the modern era.
South Africa 32-34 Japan, 2015 Rugby World Cup
Japan caused a huge upset in 2015, when they overcame two-time champions (at the time), South Africa, at the World Cup staged in the UK that year. Japan came into the game having failed to win any of their previous 18 World Cup games, but they started brightly and played with pace, taking the ball to their opponents. They led 10-7 after half an hour and kept up their efforts in the second half, staying in touch, remaining resolute in the tackle and always looking for ways to attack.
Fumiaki Tanaka at scrum-half expertly set the tempo and full-back Ayumu Goromaru was faultless with his kicking, levelling the score at 29-29 with 10 minutes to go. Handre Pollard gave South Africa the lead two minutes later from a penalty, but Japan was not done. They attacked the Springbok line hard as the game went into extra time and eventually got their reward when they worked the ball wide for Karne Hesketh to dive in with the winning try, to strike a memorable blow for Asian rugby.
Australia 24-30 France, 1987 Rugby World Cup
Australia and New Zealand were expected to reach the final of the first World Cup in 1987, but France had not read the script. In the semi-final against Australia, both teams played attacking, exciting rugby, with the lead changing hands more than once.
It was 24-24 with time running out and Australia had a lineout in French territory. After stealing the ball back, France attacked in the way that only French teams can. Support runners showed up at each tackled man’s shoulder to help move the ball away from contact and disperse the green and gold rear-guard as the ball was swept up the field. When it fell into Serge Blanco’s hands, he outran the Australian cover and went over in the corner to score one of the greatest victories in rugby.
South Africa 15-12 New Zealand, 1995 Rugby World Cup
The image of Nelson Mandela presenting the Webb Ellis Trophy to South African captain Francois Pienaar at Ellis Park after the 1995 World Cup Final is one of the most iconic in rugby history.
The Springboks’ 15-12 victory over New Zealand in extra time came just three years after South Africa was allowed back into the international fold. The success motivated a generation of young black South African players, including Bryan Habana, who later revealed that the 1995 final was the first game of rugby he had ever seen.
France 43 – 32 New Zealand, 1999 Rugby World Cup
New Zealand was in imperious form ahead of the 1999 World Cup and they seemed to be on course for the trophy after beating Tonga, England, Italy and Scotland to reach the semi-final against France. That year, France had finished at the bottom of the Five Nations and seemed to be heading for defeat when they trailed 24-10 at halftime. Out of nowhere, Christophe Lamaison led an astonishing recovery. He scored two drop goals, and then tries from Dominici, Dourthe and Bernat Salles delivered 33 points without reply to take France to the final of RWC 1999.
Argentina 25 – 15 New Zealand, 2020 Rugby Championship
Argentina played New Zealand for the first time in 1976. Over the next 44 years, they failed to record a single win against the All Blacks. That run came to an end in spectacular fashion in November 2020.
Having spent much of 2020 unable to play rugby due to the pandemic lockdown, Argentina began the game with incredible intensity, taking the game to their opponents. Nicolas Sanchez was the inspiration for the Pumas as he scored all 25 of his team’s points. They led 16-3 at halftime and although there was a strong comeback in the second half, Argentina held on to make history and deliver one of the biggest upsets in the history of international rugby.
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