Jacob Whitehead runs through the top ten international tries from the last decade

60 years of Rugby World: Greatest Tries of the 2010s

To celebrate 60 years of Rugby World magazine, we’ve been taking a look at the best international tries of every decade – and we’ve finally reached modernity. The 2010s saw New Zealand as the dominant international force, but also a resurgent northern hemisphere, with England, Wales and Ireland all scrapping it out for both continental and global honours.

Some incredible tries were scored – speedsters running amok, scarcely believable passes and a winger impersonating Jonah Lomu every other week. But amidst stiff competition, which scores have made our final top ten?

Chris Ashton (England) v Australia, 2010

A Twickenham try to rival those of Obolensky, Sharp and Cohen, built as much on menacing defence as flowing attack.

Australia were camped on the English line, Martin Johnson’s side wearing a kit the colour of damp tarmac. Tom Palmer effected a brilliant (and quite illegal) turnover and Ben Youngs, quickly scanning the field, spotted a chance for a three-on-two break. He found Courtney Lawes, whose lope drew two defenders before he passed to Chris Ashton on the outside.

There have been many famous smiles in world rugby, from Damian McKenzie’s kicking routine to Owen Farrell’s haka smirk, but Ashton’s smile here deserves to rival them. He grins, knowing he is going to score, before he is even out of the 22.

It’s not a case of ‘if’ he’s going to beat Drew Mitchell but ‘how’ – and the arcing parabola through which he accelerates saw Twickenham erupt as one, a bright spark in a dark few years for English rugby.

Radike Samo (Australia) v New Zealand, 2011

Radike Samo had a very strange career – capped six times for the Wallabies in 2004 before becoming a journeyman in the international wilderness for the next seven years. But if there was ever a first international try worth waiting for, this was it.

Picture the scene. Samo, self-admittedly in semi-retirement mode, had been offered a chance by the Reds and a year later got handed the Wallabies No 8 shirt for a Bledisloe Cup decider.

Now try freezing the frame when Samo catches the ball. A wall of All Black defenders in front of him, a 35-year-old body to contend with – and scoring seems a remote possibility.

But he somehow makes it happen, fending off Adam Thomson while sending Dan Carter the wrong way with his eyes. He’s in open space, but still has 50 metres to go. Against all odds, he picks up some quite terrifying speed, seemingly accelerating every moment, and beats Mils Muliaina and Cory Jane to the line.

George North (British & Irish Lions) v Australia, 2013

The first Test of the 2013 Lions tour saw two brilliant tries – we could have equally chosen Israel Folau’s first Wallabies try, scored after a mazy run from Will Genia.

But I think the iconic try from this game came from George North, only 21 years old, who evoked Keith Jarrett with a sensational kick-return score.

Scything through the kick-chase, barely staying upright after a stumble, he recovers to speed past Berrick Barnes with a hitch-kick so delicate that it could sing you to sleep.

Rounding Genia to score in the corner, North pointed at the scrum-half. He later apologised for his taunting gesture – the only blemish on a near-flawless try.

Jonny May (England) v New Zealand, 2014

Sometimes there’s nothing better than the simple reminder that speed kills. Jonny May’s search for a debut try had finally concluded – and there was no looking back.

Eddie Jones’s England have a reputation for fast starts, but Stuart Lancaster’s squad could do the same, with only three minutes gone when May picked up the ball behind halfway. He could scarcely have opted for a more difficult gap to go for, purring between Conrad Smith and Ben Smith.

Yet what was to follow was even more impressive. Already travelling like a bullet, May somehow accelerated through the tiniest crack in Israel Dagg’s defence to find space on the outside that only seemed there once May had already sped past for the opening try.

Julian Savea (New Zealand) v France, 2015

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Julian Savea’s impersonation of Jonah Lomu is a powerful tribute to the big man’s impact on world rugby.

New Zealand’s 62-13 demolition job on the French in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final was to Savea what 1995’s semi-final against England was to Lomu – a startling performance highlighting a special talent. He scored a hat-trick, all excellent, but the middle undoubtably the best.

Ben Smith starts the move by taking a brave high ball, but when the ball is flung out to Savea, the winger still has three defenders in front of him.

It’s hard to not raise a smile as Savea seeks contact, bumping off each tackler in turn, mowing them down like a rolling haybale scattering flailing children.


Danielle Waterman (England) v Canada, 2016

England had only narrowly beaten Canada in the 2014 World Cup final, but their next meeting would be a much less competitive affair, with Waterman’s try illustrating the gulf between the two teams.

Grabbing the ball 70 metres out, full-back Waterman was urged to step inside by pointing winger Lydia Thompson. It was the last bit of help she’d need.

Each of the first three defenders she beats trip over, a crumpled pile of fallen maple leaves. The footwork she puts on her full-back counterpart Julianne Zussman is almost unfair, her feet moving so fast as to bring on double vision.

Her final step is a formality, a childlike skip to the right, and a final lung-busting sprint sees the Red Roses star beat Brittany Waters to the line. Add this to the list of great Twickenham tries.

Sean O’Brien (British & Irish Lions) v New Zealand, 2017

Gerald Davies, George North, Matt Dawson… and Sean O’Brien? The Tullow Tank has a genuine claim to the greatest Lions try of all time, a sparkling team move against a great All Blacks side.

Liam Williams does his best Phil Bennett impression at the back, soaring past Kieran Read, Aaron Cruden and Ryan Crotty, and freeing his arms to find Jonathan Davies. As usual, Davies does the simple things brilliantly, straightening the line and shipping the ball to Elliot Daly. The winger’s line is almost flirtatious, an in-and-out that earns him just enough time to draw Beauden Barrett in.

It’s impossible for the retreating Barrett to put in a dominant hit on Davies, and at that point the All Blacks fate is sealed – a little pop finds Sean O’Brien, running a masterpiece in support lines, and the flanker crashes over for the Lions.

Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina) v England, 2017

England’s 2017 tour of Argentina was high-scoring and entertaining, as well as seeing the entrances of Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson and Piers Francis to the international arena.

But the moment that should live longest in the memory is Joaquin Tuculet’s score in the first Test, a fiesta of angles, passing, and bravery.

Taking on the English blitz, smart hands put centre Matias Orlando through as Denny Solomona on debut makes the defensive error (he’d make amends later).

Receiving the ball around halfway, Emiliano Boffelli swerves infield before Tuculet arrives on what has been known since 1973 as the Gareth Edwards line.

Some things in this world are as clear as day and from the moment he catches the ball all 20,000 spectators in San Juan stand as one to applaud the full-back home, a touch of magic from the Pumas.

Sean Maitland (Scotland) v England, 2018

American Football has a habit of giving simple names to classic plays. ‘The Catch’, ‘The Drive’, ‘The Fumble’. I’d suggest we do the same in rugby and name Finn Russell’s greatest play ‘The Pass’.

Scotland hadn’t held the Calcutta Cup since 2008, but were 10-6 up half an hour in. Playing from his own 22, surely now was the time for cool heads to prevail. So what was Russell doing floating what looked like a sure interception towards Jonathan Joseph?

Let’s rewind a moment. Russell barely loads up, looking instead as if he’s going to pull the ball back to the forwards on his outside. The English defence are spread wide, space on the outside looks almost non-existent. But he lets the ball go what seems momentarily early, the ball looping in the air long enough to make time feel tangible.

It falls somehow between Joseph and Jonny May, perfectly into the breadbasket of the onrushing Huw Jones. The English dam burst, and three perfectly-executed phases later, Sean Maitland would evade Anthony Watson to score in the corner.

The Calcutta Cup was won, and Russell announced himself as a generational attacking talent.

TJ Perenara (New Zealand) v Namibia 2019

All Blacks scrum-half TJ Perenara playing out of position as stand-off is already impressive. What was to follow, with the Hurricanes star transforming into Simone Biles, was sensational.

Breaking away from his own 22, stepping Helarius Kisting, he flings himself to offload to George Bridge. Perenara then drags himself off the floor to support Brad Weber, flying away from the ruck.

Weber, showing the absurdity of New Zealand’s scrum-half depth, draws full-back Johann Tromp and offloads round the back to the supporting Perenara.

Quite fairly after his exploits earlier in the break, the man from Porirua was out of gas, but rather than take contact flies into the air towards the corner.

Contorting his body mid-air, he somehow stretches out a right arm despite two body blows from Namibian defenders, scraping the point of the ball against the white line. The greatest try scored in Japan last year.

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