Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 January 2020

Siya Kolisi's trophy, England's haka response and Japan thrill home crowd: memorable moments from 2019 Rugby World Cup

Paul Radley reflects on a historic tournament and picks his favourite moments from Japan

It seems amazing to think now that there was ever any doubt about taking the Rugby World Cup outside the mainstream and staging it in Asia for the first time.

Japan delivered the finest of all World Cups in this sport over six weeks that were saturated by thrilling rugby, triumph in adversity and a title win for the ages.

Trying for history

Three World Cup final appearances. Three wins. And now, South Africa can even celebrate having scored a try in a final, too.

It took until the 66th minute against England. That means they had played 246 minutes of World Cup final rugby before crossing the whitewash.

The man who scored it needed to be told he had made history. Makazole Mapimpi might be forgiven for not knowing every record going, given how far removed he was from a traditional rugby upbringing.

The 29-year-old wing was playing Sunday-league rugby five years ago, grew up in a rural town, and had a succession of family tragedies in his formative years, including the death of his mother, sister and brother.

Try of the tournament I

Triple-figure scores in Rugby World Cups are a thing of the past. Even though the gap is closing between the best and the rest, there is still the odd mismatch, though.

After a relatively even first-half, New Zealand were able to stretch their legs in the second against Namibia in pool play.

Their excellence culminated in surely the try of the tournament, polished off when TJ Perenara dashed on to Brad Weber’s round-the-back pass, then tiptoed his way down the touchline to score.

Try of the tournament II

The match that many thought would never be played should remain one of the most memorable in the history of rugby’s World Cup.

The salient images of the Pool A decider between Japan and Scotland are many. The tears in the moment of silence to commemorate those lost in Typhoon Hagibis.

The children in the crowd sporting Michael Leitch face paint. Kenki Fukuoka’s luminous skill. Scrum-half Yutaka Negare refusing to kick the ball once all match.

And Keita Inagaki touching down a try of remarkable sleight of hand by a succession of Japanese forwards.

Canada’s rugby spirit

Canada endured a miserable World Cup, suffering three defeats in pool play and then seeing their most winnable fixture, against Namibia, called off because of the effects of the typhoon.

They still won much credit for their conduct, though. First, when their lock forward Josh Larsen went into the South Africa dressing room to apologise for his red card for a dangerous tackle.

And then, rather than moping after their match was cancelled after the typhoon, they went and joined the clean-up operation instead.

The haka response

An unfair advantage, an overblown marketing tool, or a vital ritual deep-rooted in New Zealand culture?

Whatever your view on the haka, it is difficult to argue about the fact the spectacle is enhanced when it is met with a respectful response.

Such was the case when England met Kapa o Pango by forming a V before their semi-final against the All Blacks.

It was thrilling stuff, so much so that it was celebrated by World Cup on their social media channels. Odd, then, that the governing body saw fit to fine England £2,000 for doing so.

Uruguay’s tears

When Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara lined up against Fiji and noted he was giving away 21cm in height to his opposite number, he might have feared it was going to end in tears.

And it did, too. Tears of joy, as the Uruguayans picked up the first shock result of the tournament, beating the Fijians 30-27.

“We are not the biggest, we are not the tallest, but we came here to win,” Gaminara said through tears at the final whistle.

“We have been preparing for this for four years. I am really proud of my country.”

Sinckler’s sorrow

A player who lit up this World Cup ended it in sorrow. Kyle Sinckler was the beating heart of England’s journey to the final, yet he lasted only two minutes of it, having been concussed during a collision.

“Words can’t do justice to how I’m feeling right now,” the prop wrote on social media after the final loss to South Africa.

“Biggest moment in my life and not even being able to get a chance to shoot my shot. Sport is cruel, but we can never let adversity get the better of us.”

Kolisi’s trophy

Maybe the last word on the relevance of that World Cup win should be left to the coach who masterminded it.

“It is easy to talk about going through hard times, but it is tough when there are days when you didn’t have food or couldn’t go to school or didn’t have shoes to wear,” Rassie Erasmus said, describing a chat he had with his captain Siya Kolisi.

“When you sit down and think about it, there was a stage when Siya didn’t have food to eat and, yes, that is the captain and he led South Africa to hold this cup.”

Updated: November 3, 2019 03:43 PM