Jacob Whitehead runs through the top ten international tries from the Nineties

60 Years of Rugby World: Greatest Tries of the 1990s

The 1990s was an incredible decade for try-scoring. There was Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Jeff Wilson – and that’s only thinking about New Zealand. Picking only ten scores was no easy task, but keep reading for one-man wrecking balls, last-minute heartbreakers and tries from the end of the world…

Serge Blanco (France) v Australia, 1990

Serge Blanco made our lowdown of the best tries of the Eighties for sending France to the inaugural World Cup final, but his most sensational individual effort would come three years later.

Catching a ball from a wheeling scrum on his own line, Blanco took off like a greyhound being pursued by a pack of chihuahuas. His stride length seems twice that of the Australian defenders, only briefly slowing to dummy the full-back with a characteristically Gallic insouciance.

Going coast to coast untouched? Unparalleled.

Philippe Saint-Andre (France) v England, 1991

The final game of the 1991 Five Nations saw both France and England gunning for the title. Down on the scoresheet, France needed something special and what is truly memorable about this try is its audacity, so surprising that the camera pulls away as the move begins.

Serge Blanco seized the ball from Pierre Berbizier. Drawing the tackle, the peerless full-back shipped on to Jean-Baptiste Lafond, who in turn found Philippe Sella. Four pairs of hands and the ball was still in the shadow of the French posts.

Fly-half Didier Camberabero was the true architect of the try, taking the switch pass and kicking the ball over the English defence, before catching it on the full and booting it infield.

Philippe Saint-Andre was the lucky recipient, dealing with an awkward bounce to the rapture of a crowd, which sounded more Lyonnais than London.

France may have lost the game 21-19, but Saint-Andre has since taken some silverware home: his was awarded the title of greatest Twickenham try at the stadium’s 2009 centenary dinner.

Tim Horan (Australia) v New Zealand, 1991

A string of knockout defeats for the Kiwis began in the 1991 World Cup semi-final. New Zealand were the ones dressed in black, but it was David Campese who was the magician (see 2:09 on the video).

Michael Lynagh’s chip couldn’t have been more tempting if it was covered in ketchup, but a weaving Campese still seemingly had no route to the try-line.

You’d have been forgiven for thinking that Campese had sidestepped himself dizzy, so strange was the sight of him gently lobbing the ball behind his head.

The All Black defence were similarly confused, colliding as they watched Tim Horan take the popped pass in his stride to send them home.

Jean-Luc Sadourny (France) v New Zealand, 1994

French rugby was to the 1990s what the Dutch football team were to the 1970s – iconic and stylish without ever really winning anything of note.

The gloriously named ‘try from the end of the world’ came in New Zealand’s last defeat at Eden Park, where they had allowed France to stay within a score by missing a plethora of kickable penalties. They would be punished in the most theatrical way possible.

Attempting to describe the try in the space available could never do it justice. Watch it and feast on the speed, the accuracy and the most unselfish offload ever seen on a rugby pitch.

The way New Zealand have been going recently (recently being the last 25 years), it will take similar fireworks to ever break the spell of Eden Park again.

Gavin Hastings (Scotland) v France, 1995

Not many passes are so good that they spawn their own nickname – but Gregor Townsend’s ‘Toonie Flip’ is one of them. Scotland were 21-16 down, and desperately looking for their first win in Paris since 1969.

It didn’t look likely, as a deep Scottish attacking line seemed well marshalled by the drifting French defence. But the quicksilver Townsend suddenly stepped inside and, despite the attentions of two tacklers, extended his right arm out like a ballerina’s leg to flip the ball inside.

A brilliant pass, but one equally made by the intelligence of Gavin Hastings’s run, beginning moments before Townsend made his first cut. He was flying as he caught the ball and only stopped underneath the posts to ensure the conversion would take Scotland to a 23-21 victory.


Jonah Lomu (New Zealand) v England, 1995

There are many emotions you may feel while watching a rugby match. Excitement, despair and even unconditional love are common. But pity is not. Pity is foreign to rugby – except for one summer afternoon during the RWC 1995 quarter-finals.

Any observer who has ever anticipated physical pain, maybe when bathing a wound in saltwater or hearing the whirr of a tattoo gun, will pity the unfortunate Mike Catt here.

Jonah Lomu broke into cult icon status as he broke Catt’s body, but people forget the elegance with which he swerved around the covering Rory Underwood and Will Carling first.

Kiwi commentator Keith Quinn summarised the moment pretty well: “Lomu… oh… oh!” Oh, and he’d go on to score another three tries in the match.

Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa) v England, 1995

The Springboks and 1995 go together like butter and toast, props and scrummaging. Their most famous try was Pieter Hendriks’s opener against Australia, the most famous moment that image of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar, but their best try came five months later at Twickenham (see 1:20 on the video).

Many pundits have Gareth Edwards and Joost van der Westhuizen as the greatest scrum-halves of all time, so it seems fitting here that the South African reimagines Edwards’s famous 1972 score against Scotland (as seen in our top ten tries of the 1970s).


Setting off down a tight lineout blindside, the sprite-like nine beat six English defenders before anyone had quite gathered what was going on. Van der Westhuizen’s chip never gets above head-height, but the deliberateness of this deft delicacy sees him scoop up the ball on the bounce and shrug off Mike Catt (poor man) to cement a 24-14 Springbok win.

John Bentley (British & Irish Lions) v Gauteng, 1997

Matt Dawson’s famous dummy was the most important try on the 1997 Lions tour, but part-time winger, part-time comedian John Bentley was the top try-scorer.

None was better than this swerving 70-metre effort against the Gauteng Lions, which would propel him towards a starting berth in the second and third Tests.

The last two swerves seem more aesthetic than pragmatic, but they served as the exclamation mark on the try that, more than any other, set the Lions on their way to a Test series victory.

Christian Cullen (New Zealand) v Australia, 1997

Christian Cullen’s pace was remarkable, not the least because for the duration of the Nineties he wore shirts so baggy that they must have felt like a mini parachute. The best of a stellar selection came against Australia in 1997, as part of a first-half onslaught that saw the All Blacks go 36-0 up.

Zinzan Brooke does his best Finn Russell impression with a long miss-pass, which Cullen steams onto at top speed. Barely even noticing tacklers as he ghosts past them, he instead focuses on tormenting full-back Stephen Larkham.

Each sway of Cullen’s hips forces Larkham to turn, but each time he does, you get the feeling that he cannot even see the All Black, never mind tackle him.

Jonah Lomu (New Zealand) v France, 1999

There was always going to be more than one Jonah Lomu try on this list, wasn’t there? The RWC 1999 semi-final will always be best known for France’s 43-31 comeback win, but these memories should not come at the cost of Lomu’s barnstorming first-half score.

There’s a famous picture of Maradona where six Belgian defenders stand facing him, desperately trying to stop the little maestro. Lomu wasn’t so little, but the result was the same: an entire defence can’t stop genius.

Five defenders lay their hands on Lomu, he disappears into an ocean of blue shirts, but he somehow re-emerges on the other side, still clasping the ball, not knowing what would come before the 80 minutes were up.

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