Three of the most iconic upsets in test rugby

Three of the most iconic upsets in test rugby

Fiji 27-30 Uruguay, Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, 25 September, 2019

The South American side had faced the Pacific Islanders four times in their history ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, losing every single match. The team’s most recent meeting prior to their Pool D match in Kamaishi, had been a 68-7 victory for the Fijians, 10 months before the tournament. Nine of the Uruguay 15 that lined up at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium had also started that match that took place in Gloucester, but they refused to be steam rolled this time.

An early try from Fiji's Mesulame Dolokoto did nothing to deter Los Teros from the task at hand. Uruguay responded with three first-half tries that helped the South Americans build a 24-12 half-time lead. Fiji would breach the Uruguayan line a total of five times, but a combination of missed conversions and the trusty boot of Felipe Berchesi ensured a famous win. Cue wild celebrations and a congratulatory tweet from football star Luis Suárez.

South Africa 32-34 Japan, Brighton Community Stadium, 19 September, 2015

Up until then, Japan had never played South Africa prior to Rugby World Cup 2015, let alone winning a match against the Springboks. Few outside of the team, their entire coaching and management staff believed in their chances against the favourited team in Pool B.

The Brave Blossoms had not won a Rugby World Cup match in over 20 years, while the Springboks had lifted the Webb Ellis Cup twice. But unbeknown to the watching world, coach Eddie Jones had been preparing for this match for much of the previous three years.

Tries from Francois Louw and Bismarck du Plessis — either side of a Michael Leitch effort — gave the Springboks a slender 12-10 lead at half-time in Brighton. South Africa breached the Japanese line twice more after the break, but an Ayumu Goromaru score allied to the full-back’s trusty boot ensured the match remained in the balance. With time running out, and South Africa holding a slender three-point lead, Japan were twice awarded a penalty. Captain Leitch turned down the three points, and draw, on offer each time, and his bravery was rewarded as Karne Hesketh squeezed over in the left corner to score the match-winning try.

New Zealand 15-25 Argentina, Bankwest Stadium, 14 November, 2020

A fourth-minute chat between referee Angus Gardner and Pablo Matera seemed to set the tone for an emotionally intense performance from Los Pumas. Argentina had not played for more than a year and had spent much of 2020 locked down and apart, but dominated the All Blacks from the off in Parramatta.

Nicolás Sánchez and Richie Mo’unga traded early penalties, but thereafter Argentina and their fly-half assumed control. It was Sánchez who pounced on the bouncing ball to score his side’s only try, which he then converted. And, the playmaker sent a total of six penalties sailing over the crossbar to amass a record points tally for an Argentine against New Zealand. Los Pumas led by a record score against the All Blacks at half-time (16-3) and despite two late tries, they comfortably held on to secure a first ever victory against the three-time Rugby World Cup winners.

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