"David vs Goliath" - Top 5 Rugby World Cup Upsets - Ruck

“David vs Goliath” – Top 5 Rugby World Cup Upsets

The Rugby World Cup has played witness to some of the greatest upset victories in the history of the sport. There are few better feelings than willing on the underdogs, and seeing them topple the favourites in an triumphant yet unexpected win.

The Webb Ellis Cup – Photo mandatory by-line: Gareth Davies/Pinnacle – Tel: +44(0)1363 881025 – Mobile:0797 1270 681 – VAT Reg No: 183700120 – 31/10/2015 – SPORT – RUGBY UNION – RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015 FINAL – New Zealand v Australia – Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London, England.

The ‘make-or-break’ stage of a Rugby World Cup makes these upset victories to be even more spectacular. Giant-slayings are somewhat of a rarity at rugby’s pinnacle competition, but when the titan is felled by a plucky underdog, iconic moments are created that will be told for generations.

From Brighton to New Zealand, and with 36 years of history to choose from, here are the Top 5 Rugby World Cup upsets.

1. South Africa 32 – 34 Japan: 2015 Rugby World Cup

There could be no better way to get this list underway, than to look back on the heroic tale of the ‘Brighton Miracle’. The opening match of Pool B at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, saw the titans of South Africa take on Japan’s Brave Blossoms, in what most expected would be a one-sided victory for the imposing Springboks.

However, with none other than Eddie Jones as Head Coach, Japan had conjured a masterful gameplan and took the fight to South Africa from the off. Japan had only ever recorded a single Rugby World Cup victory prior to this game, in a 52-8 shut-out against Zimbabwe in 1991.

Yet Jones was prepared. The Australian previewed the match by saying that this “could be a day to remember for Japanese rugby.” Jones taught his players the art of the chop tackle, which proved an effective method of halting the giant Springbok carriers.

The ‘Boks tried to run over their considerably smaller opponents, yet Jones’ defensive ingenuity ensured that his side could cut the attacking momentum out from under the legs of the bruising South Africans. The two sides traded first half blows, as Francois Louw opened up the scoring for the Springboks before Japan Captain Michael Leitch responded to keep his side in the match.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Japan captain Michael Leitch addresses the media during a Japan Press Conference at the Hilton Hotel on September 21, 2015 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

A 12-10 half-time score saw Japan remain in touching distance of their opponents, and Eddie Jones’ side refused to roll over despite the second half pressure. Full back Ayumu Goromaru slotted five penalties, which counteracted the Bok’s tries from Bismarck du Plessis, Lodewyk de Jager and Jan Strauss. Goromaru’s phenomenal try in the 69th minute then levelled up the scores, and the previously impossible task seemed almost achievable.

Handre Pollard’s 73rd minute penalty never withered the Blossom’s hope, as they kept fighting with intense chop tackles until the very end. And in the final play of the match, time stood still, as replacement winger Karne Hesketh fought his way into the corner, to wrap up an unbelievable victory for Japan.

during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Japan at the Brighton Community Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Brighton, United Kingdom.

Japan had toppled the two-time Rugby World Cup winners, in just their second ever win at a Rugby World Cup. The spectators in the Brighton Community Stadium left the match firm believers in miracles, after this incredible victory that will long be remembered.