Five magic Rugby World Cup moments

(Rugby News Service) Sunday 28 August 2011
Five magic Rugby World Cup moments
Nelson Mandela hands Francois Pienaar the Webb Ellis Cup

AUCKLAND, 28 Aug. - Five magic moments from the Rugby World Cup.

Mandela shares Springboks joy

President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springboks rugby shirt and cap, presented the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar amid scenes of unbridled jubilation on the Ellis Park pitch in Johannesburg.

The South African captain had just led his side to a thrilling 15-12 victory over New Zealand thanks to Joel Stransky’s drop goal in extra time.

The victory had special significance for a country scarred by 40 years of apartheid, but which, under the slogan ‘one team, one nation’, had begun the long journey of healing through a sport long considered a white man’s game.

Mandela waved to the crowd before handing over the trophy to Pienaar, saying: “Francois, I want to thank you for what you’ve done for this country.” Pienaar responded: “Mr President, I want to thank you for what you’ve done.”

The key roles played by Mandela and Pienaar in uniting the country, black and white, behind the Springboks’ World Cup campaign, is the subject of the 2009 film Invictus, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.

Jonny comes lately to beat the Aussies

Jonny Wilkinson has enjoyed a glittering club and international career, albeit one heavily interrupted by injury, racking up numerous records along the way: the all-time leading Test and Six Nations points scorer; the most Test drop goals; the leading RWC points scorer (249); and the only player to score points in two RWC finals.

But the fly half will forever be remembered as the man who kicked England to glory at RWC 2003.

In the final against Australia in Sydney in front of a crowd of almost 83,000, the scores were locked at 17-17 with just 26 second left on the clock. Wilkinson had missed with three earlier drop-goal attempts but managed to kick truly with his non-preferred right foot to clinch a 20-17 win and a place in English sporting folklore.

The emergence of Jonah Lomu

Just turned 20, the former loose forward was little known outside New Zealand when he arrived at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.

Before the tournament was over, he would stamp himself as the sport’s first superstar.

Lomu scored seven tries in five matches as New Zealand powered their way to the final, but it was his devastating display against England in the semi-final in Cape Town that made the rugby world sit up and take notice.

He put paid to England’s hopes of a second consecutive final appearance with a devastating first-half hat-trick of tries. For his first, the huge wing brushed aside Tony Underwood, beat Will Carling for pace and ran straight through Mike Catt to score after just 70 seconds.

He added another try after the break to become the first All Black to score four tries against England for 90 years.

“It was an honour to be named player of the tournament,” Lomu said later, “but I really wouldn’t have achieved half of what I did if it hadn’t been for the fantastic players I had around me. We always planned to play an open brand of rugby and with the space I was given it made my job so much easier.”

Michael Lynagh sinks the Irish

Roared on by a passionate Lansdowne Road crowd for their quarter-final clash with Australia at RWC 1991, Ireland flanker Gordon Hamilton scored what appeared to be the winning try in the 75th minute after a 40m dash to the line.

Ralph Keyes’ conversion made it 18-15 and the joyous home fans started to celebrate a maiden RWC semi-final berth.

A missed kick for touch left them marooned in their own half, however, giving the Wallabies a sniff of victory.

Enter Michael Lynagh. The fly half, who had taken over the captaincy when Nick Farr-Jones limped off in the first half, called a move practised on the training ground in the days leading up to the match.

Wing David Campese, who had scored two tries in the match, ran into midfield and passed out of a tackle to send Lynagh over for the winning try.

Australia went on to beat England 12-6 in the final – Lynagh kicked two penalties and a conversion – with Hamilton’s try one of only three they conceded in the tournament.

Los Pumas roar loud

It was the finest achievement in Argentine rugby history. After surprising even their own supporters by beating hosts France in the 2007 tournament opener, then topping their pool with further wins over Georgia, Namibia and Ireland, the Pumas finished third after beating France again in the third-place play-off.

Argentina had clinched a first semi-final berth by beating Scotland in a quarter-final, but their barnstorming run was finally halted by eventual winners and Argentine rugby godfathers South Africa. The Pumas got over their disappointment at not reaching the final to beat the French 34-10 in the bronze medal match in Paris to cap a memorable tournament.

RNS mr/np/rm