Rain, snow, frostbite but sport weathers the storm

With Typhoon Hagibis causing disruption to RWC 2019, Rugby News Service takes a look at some sporting triumphs that have beaten the elements.

TOKYO, 11 Oct - The severity of Typhoon Hagibis has left organisers with no option but to cancel two matches on Saturday and its aftermath will dictate if there are further disruptions to the RWC 2019 schedule.

As much of Japan battens down the hatches to prepare for the worst weather in many years, we look at other memorable moments when sport has battled with the elements. 

In rugby, Scotland, who are anxiously awaiting the fate of their Pool A game against Japan on Sunday, were involved in one of the most famous bad-weather games of them all.

In 1975, their showdown with New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland - dubbed "the water polo test" - was played on a field so waterlogged there were fears someone could have drowned at the bottom of a ruck.

Despite 13 penalties being awarded, not once was either side brave enough to kick for goal.

Even then, the All Blacks' magic shone through and they won 24-0, with Bryan Williams scoring two tries.

When Scotland and New Zealand met again at Murrayfield three years later, with the All Blacks looking to seal their first tour Grand Slam, the problem was not rain, snow or wind, but darkness. There were no floodlights, and on a gloomy winter day the players could barely see their way off the pitch after the All Blacks' 18-9 win.

Perhaps the 1961 game between the All Blacks and France gets closest to the situation facing teams in Japan this weekend.

Wellington lived up to the name of its Super Rugby franchise, the Hurricanes, when 130kmh winds battered Athletic Park. When Don Clarke took a penalty 10 yards in from touch, he aimed the ball at the corner flag and watched the wind sweep it through the sticks to seal a 5-3 win for the All Blacks.

The weather-affected Rugby World Cup game that eclipses all others is the 1995 semi-final between South Africa and France in Durban, when torrential rain left the ground looking more like a lake hours before the game. The Springboks were on edge: if the game was called off, France would go through to the final because they had a better disciplinary record in the tournament.

The skies did clear for the host nation, though, and they won a messy affair 19-15, the sort of result Japan is hoping for on Sunday.

Other sports have weathered their own storms. In the USA, one of the most famous NFL Championship games ever played was between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in 1967, a game that is referred to as the Ice Bowl. It was played at -26C degrees with an average wind chill of -44C. To compound matters, the under-turf heating failed, leaving the surface rock-hard.

It was so cold that penalties and plays had to be called out by the referee because when he blew his whistle it froze to his lips. A few hours after the Packers' 21-17 win, their star player Ray Nitschke started to suffer from frostbite. His toenails came off and he could not keep his shoes on. "I had the flu for a week after the game and lost 10 pounds. But it was worth it all to win like we did that day," he said later. 

There is a long list of football matches that went ahead when they should have been postponed. Perhaps the most remarkable was in Japan - the Intercontinental Cup match between Porto (Portugal) and Penarol (Uruguay) in 1987.

There were 45,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo - demolished in 2015 - but they could not honestly say they watched the match, because the snow was so heavy at times they could barely see the pitch. Porto won 2-1 on a white playing surface that worsened throughout the game. 

Hopefully, the typhoon will not disrupt the remaining matches this weekend and RWC 2019 will avoid joing the list of sporting fixtures remembered for the weather rather than the action on the pitch.

RNS mj/ajr/bo/mr