Rugby World Cup: Greatest Pool Stage Moments
Ahead of every stage of the 2015 tournament, we will be looking back on some of the most memorable moments in Rugby World Cup history
The pool stages of the Rugby World Cup can often be lamented for being boring and predictable.
Yet every tournament without fail has always managed to produce an array of unforgettable moments, from incredible tries to famous upsets.
Here are our greatest ever Rugby World Cup pool stage moments:
1. Kosuke Endo try for Japan v Wales (2007)
When Hitoshi Ono first stole the ball from the back of a Welsh ruck three metres from his own try line in 2007, he could not imagine that he was about to set in motion one of the greatest tries scored in World Cup history.
Racing out of his 22, the second row – now Japan’s most capped player and set to feature in his third tournament this year – kept the ball alive by passing to a team mate.
The ball was shifted from fly-half to centre to full-back, with one more looped pass into the path of Kosuke Endo running at full pelt all that was needed for the winger to make a dash for the line.
Incredibly, he touched down just 16 seconds after Japan had laid their hands on the ball in the opposite corner.
The score gave Japan an 8-7 lead midway through the first half, although they would go on to lose 72-18.
It mattered not, for in glorious defeat the Cherry Blossoms had entered Rugby World Cup folklore. 2. Vilimoni Delasau try for Fiji v Wales (2007)
Our second pool stage moment is another try scored against Wales at the same tournament – only this one would prove to be pivotal in a disastrous campaign.
In the final game of the group and already with an early try under their belt, Fiji chose to attack from a scrum inside his own 22.
Seru Rabeni produced a magical offload behind his back to midfield partner Seremaia Bai who in turn passed out of the tackle to Vilimoni Delasau, with the winger hacking on despite the ball going to ground.
Seemingly overcrowded out on the touchline, Delasau chipped forward before towering above the covering defenders to collect an impossibly high bounce and touch down to complete a remarkable solo effort.
Fiji would eventually go on to win a thrilling game 38-34 thanks to a last-minute pick and drive by second row Graham Dewes and earn a first quarter-final appearance since 1987.
However, it was Delasau’s sensational score for which one of the most entertaining games the World Cup has ever seen will always be remembered. 3. Suka Hufanga try for Tonga v France (2011)
When France met Tonga in their final group game of 2011, everybody presumed that they would coast through to the quarter-finals.
Yet when Tonga took the lead with a wonderfully executed try during the first half, one of the greatest ever Rugby World Cup shocks was suddenly on the cards.
With a decoy runner distracting the charging defence, scrum-half Taniela Moa picked out Kurt Morath with a deep pass before the fly-half sent an expertly flighted cross-field kick towards the opposite side of the pitch.
The bounce into Suka Hufanga’s hands was perfect, but the powerful winger still had plenty to do in handing off flanker Julien Bonnaire before bouncing over the line.
Tonga did manage to hold on to record a remarkable 19-14 victory, but needed three more tries to sneak into the last eight with a winning bonus point.
Instead, it was France who limped through behind New Zealand, with the two sides going on to meet once again in the final. 4. Takudzwa Ngwenya try for USA v South Africa (2007)
The 2007 Rugby World Cup was without doubt Bryan Habana’s tournament.
The flying winger finished up as the top try scorer with eight, on his way to helping the Springboks to their second title before being named as the IRB Player of the Year.
A fearsome finisher known for his raw pace having only narrowly lost a race with a cheetah, Habana was considered to be easily the fastest player in the world.
Until he came up against Takudzwa Ngwenya and the USA in the pool stages.
Following a move that saw flanker Todd Clever intercept a pass before leading a breakaway from deep inside his own 22, the ball eventually found its way out to Ngwenya on the halfway line.
After standing Habana up with a deceptive shimmy, Ngwenya proceeded to take him on the outside – leaving the Springbok star trailing in his wake as he coasted beneath the posts.
It was a breath-taking score, proving that even players from the smaller nations can possess the raw physical attributes to outshine their more illustrious opponents on the grand stage. READ: Man v Machine: Round One