Best of RWC - Episode 9
1999 – Classics
Part 9 of the series celebrating what I think is the best of RWC.
Let’s face it – you had to wade through some dross to get really excited about the footy at RWC IV. The rugby really wasn’t massively spectacular. However, luckily for us, and this series of articles, there were one or two notable exceptions.
Although some of the “facts” may not be 100% accurate the opinions expressed are.
New Zealand 30 v England 16
This match was much anticipated, and built up from the time that the draw was announced, perhaps even more so than the corresponding match which opened the tournament in 1991. This one, in the midst of pool play, would determine who would end up on the “hard” side of the draw, i.e., the likely quarter final against South Africa, with Australia awaiting in the semi.
The “need” for New Zealand to win this was intensified for Kiwi fans following publication of an article by former test lock turned journo Paul Ackford entitled “England’s Moment of Glory is at Hand” which rates up there with Simon Barnes pre-France test rant against the All Blacks in 2004. Oops.
Just like in the previous tournament the English (read Will Carling & Mr, now Sir, Clive Woodward) managed to attribute much of the credit for the All Blacks win to the presence of Jonah Lomu, which was not an accurate assessment of the teams’ relative strengths. Lomu did score another magnificent try, which Andrew Mehrtens described as being made by his pass and all Jonah had to do was run 60m and beat 5 players (but let’s not examine that pass too closely, an argument could have been made that it may have drifted ever so slightly forward, although the modern interpretation of “backwards from the hands” may be pertinent).
Jonah did receive a none too subtle knee to the face from Lawrence Dallaglio after scoring the try, which riled the big bloke. But despite getting a little airplay in the aftermath this was pretty much left on the field.
England closed the gap to a single point (if I recall correctly) as they capitalised on some All Black confusion to score their solitary try, but Lomu and Byron Kelleher, who scored a try as a replacement (something he had made a habit of in the early rounds) added to Jeff Wilson’s first half effort as the All Blacks eased away in the last quarter.
The three try to one win lined up Scotland in the Quarters and a likely France in the Semis (what happened in that game? Anybody remember?).
France 28 v Fiji 19
My memories of this game are sketchy, and I’m sure referee Paddy O’Brien would wish he could forget the game as well.
O’Brien freely describes this match as his most public “train smash” as a series of embarrassing errors – pretty much all in France’s favour – denied Fiji a possible (even probable) victory.
South Africa 44 v England 21 – QF2
This quarter final match in Paris was one of those matches that had been identified when the draw came out as one to watch. With a likely match-up of South Africa versus either England or New Zealand it was going to mean an early exit for one of the big guns. In this case it was England who went – courtesy of a surprise Springbok tactic.
This match will be remembered for the extraordinary haul of five (five!) drop goals from Springbok first five-eighth Jannie de Beer. It emerged that the Springboks had identified up to a year previously that England would be vulnerable to de Beer’s long range drop goals, and the match, which had been running fairly close into the second half, suddenly blew out and the Africans progressed to the Semi-Finals.
Australia 27 v South Africa 21 – SF1
Live by the drop goal, die by the drop goal.
After cleaning up England in Paris it was on to Twickers for the Bokke, where the unlikely drop goal taker Stephen Larkham hit an extraordinary 50m field goal in extra time to break the deadlock. A subsequent penalty goal gave a smidgen of comfort as Australia advanced to their second ever final on the back of a heroic performance from the ill Tim Horan.
This was only the second RWC game to go to extra time and the only one in this tournament. It was also the Bok’s first ever RWC loss (in their second tournament appearance).
Australia 35 v France 12 – Final
If it wasn’t the final this would be remembered as a fairly unremarkable game of rugby, with the exception of big Owen Finnegan’s 35m burst from a line-out gone wrong to score the try that confirmed the result in the Wallabies favour.
It was Australia’s second Rugby World Cup triumph as they moved forward to try and defend the title on home turf at the next tournament (although more of it was to be played in Australia than was envisaged at this point in time).