As the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia draws ever nearer, we’re taking a little look back at five of the best moments from previous tournament showpieces.
Seeing as it was a particularly miserable tournament for hosts England, we’ll start with a certain drop-goal from 2003.
It had been a thrillingly nervy final between England and Australia as the two sides battled it out on the Wallabies’ home soil in Sydney.
Jason Robinson’s try cancelled out Lote Tuqiri’s early score for the tournament hosts, and a trio of Jonny Wilkinson penalties saw England lead 14-5 at the interval.
In a tight second period, Elton Flatley kicked two penalties to bring Australia to within three points of forcing extra time. Low and behold, in the 80th minute, Flatley held his nerve again to level it all at 14-14.
Another penalty apiece from Flatley and Wilkinson saw extra time running to an end at 17 all, but with 26 seconds on the clock, against Australia, in Australia, Wilkinson drop-kicked England to the Webb Ellis Trophy. With his weaker right foot. Fairytale stuff.
One of the most iconic moments and images of not just rugby, but all sport took place in 1995.
South Africa were playing in their first Rugby World Cup and they were hosts. Pressure, and the eyes of the world, were all on the host nation.
A 27-18 win over Australia in their opening group game was a sign that the Springboks meant business, and a faultless run saw them meet New Zealand in the final in Johannesburg.
It wasn’t the greatest final as a sporting spectacle, with no trys from either side, but sometimes a sporting story isn’t all about what happens on the field of play.
This final was the first to require extra-time, and the hosts’ nerves turned to joy when Joel Stranksy’s drop-goal secured a historic 15-12 victory.
Francois Pienaar collected the Webb Ellis Trophy from South African President Nelson Mandela, draped in a Springboks shirt and cap in a moment which became a symbol of unity around the globe.
France versus the Haka
France and New Zealand had enjoyed quite differing fortunes on their paths to the 2011 final at Eden Park.
The All Black hosts had won every game, including a comfortable 37-21 victory over Les Blues in the pool stages.
That defeat, coupled with a surprise 19-14 loss to Tonga, meant France only progressed because Tonga themselves suffered an unexpected defeat to Canada.
New Zealand had dispatched Argentina and swatted Australia aside in the knockout stages, while France edged England 19-12 before Sam Warburton’s early red card allowed them to overcome Wales 9-8 in the semi-final.
Firm outsiders for victory in the final, the French camp decided on match day morning they would advance on New Zealand as they performed the Haka.
Was it brave? Was it naive? Whatever it was, France were fined £2,500 for advancing over the half-way line.
It was certainly a memorable sporting moment, and it can be argued it threw the hosts off track.
Far from the dominating victory enjoyed in the Pool clash, New Zealand were engaged in a low-scoring affair with just one try apiece. Nevertheless, they overcame France’s boldness to claim an 8-7 victory.
Campese angers England
Those old enough to remember the 1991 final between England and Australia will recall two things.
One – It was not a great game.
Two – David Campese’s knock-on.
England had been second best against the Wallabies at Twickenham, but an attack late in the second half threatened to turn the game on its head.
However Peter Winterbottom’s attempted pass to Rory Underwood was knocked down by Campo, and England duly expected to be awarded a penalty try for what was believed by many to be a deliberate knock-on from the Australian legend.
Welsh referee Derek Bevan thought differently, however, and the hosts were rewarded with just a penalty.
Jonathan Webb duly converted, but that was it for England and they lost 12-6. They would have to wait another 12 years for revenge.
Mark Cueto’s ghost try
Sadly for England fans we end this little fivesome with some more Final heartbreak.
Few expected an ageing England side to reach the 2007 final in Paris, and fewer still expected them to win against South Africa after a humiliating 36-0 pasting by the Springboks in the Pool stage.
However, having held on to 9-3 down in the showpiece, Mark Cueto had England fans jumping off their seats as he went over out on the left early in the second half while being challenged by Danie Roussouw.
Referee Alain Rolland referred the decision to Television Match Official Stuart Dickinson to decide if Cueto was in touch before grounding the ball.
It was an agonising wait for Brian Ashton’s side and after much deliberation, Dickinson declared Cueto’s foot was indeed in touch before grounding the ball.
Rolland brought the play back, and England eventually slumped to a 15-6 defeat as South Africa claimed their second World Cup crown.
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