After six weeks of being spoiled with some marvellous rugby, it's time to pick out the moments that caught the eye in our, er, prestigious awards
Philanthropy award of the World Cup – Sonny Bill Williams
Good old Sonny Bill. In a career where he has been accused of putting his own ambitions before the team, SBW has arisen to almost saintly levels of adoration by showing compassion and empathy. In the quarter-finals he offered a pair of tickets to Syrian refugees, in the semi-final, he went straight to Jesse Kriel to commiserate with him but he topped the lot in the wake of the World Cup final after presenting 14-year-old Charlie Lines with his winners medal after he was ‘smoked’ by an over-zealous security guard. Arise, Sir Sonny!
Faster than a cheetah award – Craig Joubert
Picture the scene. There are just 120 seconds left on the clock and Scotland are 34-32 up against Australia and on the cusp of a famous victory. Joubert made a rogue call that prop Jon Welsh was in an offside position saw Scotland penalized and Bernard Foley slotting the winning penalty to a cacophony of boos in torrential rain. Fine, referees make mistakes but what happened next wasn’t clever. Sensing a lynch mob, Joubert looked furtively around and departed the field sharpish in what was interpreted as tantamount to admitting guilt. Brett Gosper, World Rugby’s CEO suggested he may have needed the loo…*insert pun here*
Tears in the eyes award – Daniel Hourcade
Argentina do pasión better than anyone else. Perhaps it’s their genetic make-up but to see tears rolling down the cheeks of 18st behemoths during the anthems is genuinely moving. It was no surprise to see Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade openly shedding tears when Argentina bowed at the business end of the tournament. He said later in the press conference he could barely remember in the emotion at the final whistle but it said everything that Argentina would continue to play in their swashbuckling way. How refreshing.
Funniest moment – Johnny Redelinghuys
Johnny Redelinghuys is not a man with thousands of points to his name. Indeed, his robust physique points to a career hitting rucks and in dark places but after becoming the first Namibian to win his 50th and final cap against Argentina, he saw an opening after JC Greyling went over for a consolation score. With the final kick of the match, Redelinghuys, whose day job is running a steel construction company, gave a little shake of the hips and stepped up for the conversion. It was a kick with limited artistic merit yet reached the foot of the post. However the smile from Redlinghuys was as wide as Namibia’s Fish River canyon so you could forgive him. A lovely moment.
The ‘he writes his own scripts’ award – Dan Carter
With 1590-points to his name. You could say the last eight-points of Daniel Carter’s career reinforced his standing as the greatest fly-half of his generation. On 69 minutes, he received an arrow-like pass from Aaron Smith in the pocket and with a quick step onto his preferred left-foot, struck the ball between the uprights majestically. Five-minutes later, the All Blacks were awarded a scrum-penalty from 48m. It was a distance at the very edge of his range, but he nailed it with centimetres to spare. With a minute-to-go, after Beauden Barrett’s breakaway try he dinked a conversion with his unfamiliar right-boot. With that, it was 1598 and out.
The ‘Downton Abbey award for services to drama’ – Japan beating South Africa
In World Cups, when Tier 2 team face two-time World Champions, there’s usually only one outcome. Unlike football, when Cup shocks are two-a-penny, in Test Rugby outcomes are usually predictable. Eddie Jones’ masterminded Japan’s entry into the history books with a deserved over South Africa. The denouement came with a fend from No 8 Amanaki Mafi to create just enough space to put Karne Hesketh in the corner. Cue complete and utter bedlam.
The ‘party balloon’s gone flat’ award – England
England were trumpted for what seemed like an eternity as genuine contenders for the Rugby World Cup with bookmakers installing them as second favourites, sent off by Take That, they had home advantage and groundswell of support. The end was swift and clinical, just 16 days in. The previous week they’d been downed by Wales after some poor decisions and against Australia, they were chastened, with their heaviest defeat at Twickenham. There was no place to hide as they were booed off.
The ‘big guys have feelings too award’ – Mamuka Gorgodze
The 6ft 5in, 19st Georgian is a man’s man, who happily wraps up opposition defenders into a small ball and spits them out. Not a man who you’d think would openly show emotion.After a man-of-the-match showing against Tonga, Gorgodze, put his body on the line against the All Blacks and led them to a ‘respectable’ 43-10 defeat to the All Blacks. At the final whistle he was named Man of the Match again as the camera panned to him on the bench, he smiled, looked surprised before clasped his hands together to gesture a thank you to fans, before having several hefty slaps on the back from his team-mates. Heart-warming.
The services to A&E wards award – Wales’ backline
Wales had a relatively injury-free Six Nations but as soon as Jonathan Davies was ruled out in May through an ACL injury, it started a domino effect. Against Italy, in-form scrum-half Rhys Webb ruled out through a serious foot injury. In the same game, the world’s best place-kicker Leigh Halfpenny also did his ACL. You’d have thought it ended there but in five-minute passage against England they lost Liam Williams to concussion, Scott Williams to a leg-injury and Hallam Amos to a dislocated shoulder. Even their back-up Eli Walker was injured. Did it end there? Did it ‘eck. In the quarter-final against South Africa they lost Tyler Morgan to a dislocated shoulder and Gareth Anscombe to an ankle-injury. They’d have been on the dog and bone to Gerald Davies and JPR for the game against New Zealand if they’d won!
The ‘finest use of a nickname’ award – Pooper
David Pocock spent nearly two years of his life between World Cups on the rehab table, recovering from consecutive ACL injuries, while his heir Michael Hooper racked up the caps and showed himself to be a world-class player. With a return to fitness for Pocock, Michael Cheika played them together against the All Blacks to inflict their first win over the All Blacks for four years and sensibly kept the combination going in the World Cup. They destroyed England at the breakdown and were anointed ‘Pooper’, for they most definitely pooped on England’s parade from a great height.
The ‘comeback from a near death experience’ award – Schalk Burger
Even a near-death experience with spinal meningitis wasn’t enough to keep Schalk Burger away from a fourth World Cup outing, but Schalk wasn’t there to be an encouraging squad member on the fringes. That’s not his bag, so he produced a tournament of such ferocity, skill and leadership that he further reinforced his reputation as a Bok legend. He comfortably topped the carrying stats, was third in the tackle count and showed surprisingly soft hands. “I thought I played some nice rugby”, Burger commented, modestly, in a press conference. You could say that.
The ‘crazy fans’ award – Argentina and Ireland
Over 2.4 million fans can take a bow for making it the best supported Tournament ever but the Irish and Argentina fans stood out. Ireland set a world record rugby attendance at Wembley with nearly 90,000 fans turning out to see them playing Romania before turning Cardiff green for their other Pool games. The atmosphere for Ireland v France was intoxicating with the noise levels even surpassing Wales internationals. As for the Pumas fans, they brought dancing, lots of gesticulating and importantly a sense of fun. The only sadness was one set of supporters had to leave the tournament after their quarter-final tear up.
‘Don’t call it a comeback’ for best use of social media – Dai Lama
He lives in a secluded monastery – thought to be in rural West Wales – with his trusted friend Tenzing, mostly thinking (in)pure thoughts about the game’s prize targets and he had been on self-induced period of hibernation – from Twitter that is – before being tempted back with his usual array of sharp put-downs, mastery of photoshop and ‘LOL’ moments. Such dedication that has seen him amass over 61,000 followers and they will hope Dai returns after his vacation on a tropical island just off…Burry Port.
The ‘sit back, eat your popcorn and enjoy the show’ award – Argentina’s back three
While the likes of Israel Folau, George North and Bryan Habana were expected to dominate the try-scoring charts and metres carried, the Argentina back-three of Juan Imhoff, Santiago Cordero and Joaquin Tuculet came to the tournament with little fanfare. By the tournament’s end, the trio were household names, with Cordero’s footwork – he made the second most clean breaks and carried third furthest (514m), coupled with Imhoff’s élan which saw him dance over for five tries, dovetailed with full-back Tuculet’s ability to break from deep – he was fifth in metres carried (433m). Daniel Hourcade’s decision to let his players express themselves paid off handsomely.
The ‘death by offload’ award – Leone Nakarawa
Leone Nakarawa has recently said he is so comfortable offloading because he grew up passing the ball in rivers in Fiji, up to his waist. He has transferred those skills to rugby pitch to the point where anyone who is in support of the Glasgow Warrior expects the ball to pop out somewhere as he goes into contact. Not only was he top offloader in the Pro12, but he was top in the World Cup Pool stages for offloads (10) and turnovers (9). A phenomenal talent.
The ‘gracious in defeat’ award – Heyneke Meyer
Heyneke Meyer is the ultimate competitor, often seen gesticulating wildly, jumping for joy or holding his head in his hands, but if the Springboks lose, he is a lesson in magnamity. After the defeat to Japan, he refused to make excuses for the loss and against the All Blacks, his grace in defeat impressed the world’s rugby media. When the Brave Blossoms were announced as winners of the ‘Best Moment of the World Cup’, he led a standing ovation from the Springboks at the World Rugby awards. Classy guy.