Monday 25 September 2017

Five great rugby shocks

Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, presents the Rugby World Cup trophy to Springboks captain Francois Pienaar, after South Africa beat New Zealand in the 1995 final. Photo: Getty Images
Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, presents the Rugby World Cup trophy to Springboks captain Francois Pienaar, after South Africa beat New Zealand in the 1995 final. Photo: Getty Images

We look at some of the biggest upsets in rugby history.

JANUARY 20, 2012

Connacht 9 Harlequins 8

Niall O'Connor's kicking edged Connacht past Conor O'Shea's Harlequins to claim their only victory in their maiden Heineken Cup campaign.

Harlequins were first to draw blood when winger Sam Smith squeezed over for an early try. Connacht responded quickly, establishing a six-point lead thanks to O'Connor's boot, and continued to dominate at the windswept Sportsground.

A Nick Evans penalty on the hour mark left Harlequins just one point in arrears, but the fly-half missed with another attempt which would have given his side the lead.

Connacht held on for a deserved win – their first in almost four months – and the result meant that their English opponents failed to get to the quarter-final stages of the tournament.

SEPT 17, 2011 WORLD CUP

Ireland 15 Australia 6

Ireland defied all expectations and stormed to the top of Pool C by winning the group's crucial match against the Tri Nations champions and the tournament's second favourites at Eden Park.

Jonathan Sexton kicked two penalties and a drop-goal, while Ronan O'Gara weighed in with six points in Ireland's finest World Cup display.

Australia's James O'Connor matched Ireland's six points by the half-time mark but this was to be the sum total of Wallaby scoring.

A fantastic forward display by Ireland denied Australia any further chances to score in the second half; a surprise given their lacklustre opening display in the tournament against the USA.

MAY 25, 1995 WORLD CUP FINAL

South Africa 15 New Zealand 12

South Africa's victory ended the All Blacks' aura of invincibility.

A Jonah Lomu-inspired XV had blazed a trail all the way to the 1995 final against tournament hosts South Africa.

In a match were both sides failed to register a try, the kickers came to the fore.

Spurred on by a 62,000 home crowd, South Africa destroyed the All Blacks machine to win courtesy of a Joel Stransky drop-goal in extra-time.

OCTOBER 31, 1978

Munster 12 New Zealand 0

The most famous upset in the history of Irish rugby remains the only time that a side from this country has ever beaten the All Blacks.

The Irish Independent's Tony Ward was the hero of the day, landing two drop-goals and kicking the conversion after Christy Cantillon's try in a day never to be forgotten in Thomond Park.

The result proved to be the inspiration for the popular play 'Alone it Stands' and saw the All Blacks buck their trend of playing only Test matches on tour in 2008.

New Zealand revisited the newly refurbished Thomond Park in November of that year and the province, despite being without a host of frontline players, came within minutes of another famous upset.

APRIL 1, 2007 H'KEN CUP Q/F

Biarritz 6 Northampton 7

The Saints' win in San Sebastian goes down as one of the biggest shocks in tournament history as the English side were enduring a woeful season domestically.

They were bottom of the Premiership table when they headed south and, after an error-strewn game, the home side led 6-0 with 10 minutes to go.

Robbie Kyd scored an intercept try before Carlos Spencer knocked over the conversion as the Saints progressed to the last four, where they lost to Wasps and also ended the year with relegation from the Premiership.

Irish Independent

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