Kudos to the Rugby Comebacks

If you caught the Chiefs game against the Highlanders this week, then you were in for quite the treat.

The Chiefs were playing their first game of the season in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition and trying to break away from their nine-game losing streak. The Highlanders were coming off a loss to the current champion Crusaders the week before.

Playing in Hamilton in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, the Chiefs booted in two relatively easy penalties to the Highlanders’ one. A try in the 21st minute and another eight minutes later saw the Chiefs lead 20-11 at the half. Surely a win was in their grasp.

Fast forward to the final whistle and the Highlanders ended up taking the W, 23-39.

The enchantment and appeal with Rugby, amongst other things, is the possibility of comebacks.

There have been many and we take a look at some of the most commendable displays of tenacity below.

  1. France 43 – 31 New Zealand, RWC semifinal, Twickenham, 1999: One name – Jonah Lomu! That was enough to bring doubt into the mindset of any sane player. But the French perhaps were a little ‘crazier’ than the All Blacks bargained for and from the get go struck first blood from Christophe Lamaison’s try. The AB’s bounced right back and Lomu evaded seven Frenchmen in a superb try to have the men in black lead 17-10 at the half. Five minutes into the 2nd half and it was already 24-10 and surely the win was in the bag for the Abs. Two drop goals and two penalties from France later, the deficit was down to only two points. A Christophe Dominici try put France in the lead. France followed up with two more tries from Dourthe and Bernat-Salles. A late Jeff Wilson try was not enough to rally the AB’s energy back from defeat and France had completed the comeback 31-43.
  2. South Africa 36 – 35 Australia, Edinburgh Sevens, 2011: Now Rugby Sevens is always octane-injected, power-up, exhilarating Rugby but this game took the cake! At half time, the Aussies were comfortably leading 7-21. Just moments into the second half, Australia scored once more to stretch the lead, 7-28. The Blitzboks put up a fight with two tries from Frank Horne and Bernardo Botha but the Aussies answered with another try from Ed Jenkins. South Africa’s Steven Hunt picked up the gauntlet and scored two tries and then the improbable happened. Just as the full-time hooter sounded, South Africa re-gathered their kickoff and S’bura Sithole crisscrossed the field to score and upset the Aussies in a remarkable comeback, 36-35.
  3. Leinster 33 – 22 Northampton Saints, Heinekan Cup Final, 2011: At half time, tries from Dylan Hartley, Phil Dowson and Ben Foden had pretty much put the Saints sure favourites to take their second European crown and the score was at a very safe 6 – 22. In the changing rooms however, Johnny Sexton’s rousing half time speech rallied his team to bring out their best as soon as they returned to play. Sexton led the way with two tries followed up by one from Nathan Hines to pull one of the greatest comebacks ever seen in the Heineken Cup. Sexton ended the game with 28 points and a deserved Man of the Match award. Leinster came away with the victory, 33 – 22.
  4. Wales 31 – 24 Scotland, Six Nations, 2010: Scotland had come to Cardiff with intent and determination to win their first match there since 2002. Wales’ kicking kept the hosts within striking distance but with five minutes to go, Scotland were comfortably 10 points ahead. The hosts dared to dream of a draw when just two minutes from fulltime, Leigh Halfpenny scored a try that was converted by Stephen Jones. A late penalty evened out the score an it was 24-all with barely a couple of minutes to go. After what would obviously be the last action of play, Jones kicked the ball ahead after the restart and Shane Williams ended up crossing the line, the conversion following taking Wales to a 31 – 24 victory.
  5. Ireland 22 – 24 New Zealand, Dublin, 2013: The Irish looked to make history as they led 22 – 7 at the half with tries from Conor Murray, Rory Best and Rob Kearney along with a penalty from Johnny Sexton in their books, with only Julian Savea scoring a converted try for the men in black. Aaron Cruden and Ben Franks scored two more tries for the visitors but by the 80th minute, Ireland were still holding on to a five-point lead and it seemed that their 108-year-old wait would finally be over. One last vigorous push from the All Blacks led to Ryan Crotty crossing the lines close to the sideline and the conversion attempt was not ever going to be easy. Cruden missed the conversion but it was ruled that that the Irish had rushed the kicker and so a second attempt was made. Cruden did not miss it this time and New Zealand defeated Ireland 22 – 24. It would take another three years before Ireland would finally defeat the All Blacks, in – of all places – Chicago, USA.

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