The six greatest moments in Rugby League World Cup history

Scott Pryde Roar Guru

By , Scott Pryde is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


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    For many, the Rugby League World Cup is not yet the pinnacle of the game. It’s not yet the event that takes Australia’s fascination. But, with 2017 looking like one of the closest tournaments yet as we head into the semi-finals, and with international rugby league on the improve, it’s worth taking a look through history at the moments which have shaped the Cup.

    6. The USA qualify for the quarter-finals (2013)
    They went on to get thumped by Australia 62-0, but the USA qualifying for the quarter-finals was a minor miracle.

    Sure, they were drawn in a group with the Cook Islands and Wales, but they still were never supposed to get out of that.

    Instead, they beat the Cook Islands 32-20 and then ran over Wales 24-16. They lost to Scotland in the crossover game but booked a historic quarter-final with the Australians.

    Here was a team of semi-professionals and players who, for the most part, couldn’t get a look in at NRL level, taking on the best team in the world. Maybe one of the greatest teams ever.

    A team with future immortals, a team with Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne playing centre and a team who came out of their three group games with a for and against of 90.

    The result didn’t matter because it was never in question, but the moment for international rugby league sure did.

    Fiji and Samoa also faced off in a quarter-final that year, and while the final was same old same old as Australia beat New Zealand at Old Trafford, it was two steps forward for the game.

    5. Australia score a century (2000)
    If the USA making the quarter-finals was two steps forward for international rugby league, then a 110-4 smashing of Russia was probably numerous steps backwards.

    Australia’s mauling of Russia is still the biggest winning score in history, although the Regal trophy (England’s all teams competition) saw Huddersfield beat Blackpool 142-4 in 1994 (don’t ask me how).

    Russia were never really up to World Cup quality, given they lost 38-12 to Fiji and 76-4 to England in their other games.

    Still, seeing 100 points racked up in a game of rugby league is surreal. It’s never happened in the NRL, with the Dragons’ 91-6 demolition of the Bulldogs in 1935 still holding the record.

    Australia ran in 19 tries – that’s one almost every four minutes – with Wendell Sailor scoring four and Ryan Girdler a hat-trick. Jason Croker, Nathan Hindmarsh and Trent Barrett all had two, while Andrew Johns, Gorden Tallis, Bryan Fletcher, Shane Webcke, Adam MacDougall and Matthew Gidley all found their way onto the scoresheet.

    That’s 11 different scorers. You’ll never see anything like it again, mark my words.

    4. Matthew Ridge saves New Zealand from Tongan boilover (1995)
    Speaking of upsets, it’s hard to go past this near upset in 1995. Tonga had New Zealand right on the ropes during their tournament opener in Warrington.

    Leading 24-12 late in the match, Tonga were on the verge of causing what would have been a boilover, but tries to Hitro Okesene and Richie Blackmore, along with a field goal to Matthew Ridge, saved the day for the Kiwis.

    Tonga collapsed again in their second game of that year’s tournament, leading Papua New Guinea 20-0 before being run down for a 28-28 draw.

    We come into the 2017 World Cup with Tonga as a dark-horse for the entire tournament and at worst a finals spot. With another chance to get the better of New Zealand in the group stages, there is every chance we will see it happen this time around.

    3. Hayne takes Fiji to the semi-finals (2008)
    Jarryd Hayne is back in blue for the Bati in 2017, but he began his international career with Fiji in 2008 and wasn’t it a success?

    Rated by most as next to no chance to advance through the World Cup, they got past France 42-6 in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. While on paper it mightn’t seem all that large, they weren’t supposed to win.

    They did and qualified for the quarter-finals on the back of a superior points differential, where they beat Ireland 30-14. Again, it was an upset with Hayne leading the way for the Bati.

    In the end, they were brought well short of the mark by Australia in Sydney, but it was a superb performance from the Fijians. They have continued to build with another semi-final appearance in 2013, and will look to do something similar this time around.

    Jarryd Hayne Gold Coast Titans Rugby League NRL 2016

    (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

    2. 100 minutes, 20 points and a drawn final sees Great Britain win the Cup (1972)
    The 1972 World Cup is probably not one that lives long in the memory banks, other than a couple of moments. Hosted in France, Great Britain and Australia moved through to the final with just 4,000 fans showing up.

    The final is remembered for Graeme Langlands, who scored what has since become known as ‘the greatest try never scored’. He was ruled offside by the referee when he clearly wasn’t.

    But that’s not the quirky fact that enters this match on the greatest moments of all time.

    At fulltime, it was ten points all. It was the first and only time in the competition’s history the scores were level at fulltime of a final, and a 20-minute extra time period was played.

    Neither team could find their way to any points and in the end, the game was called with Great Britain lifting the cup by virtue of a higher finishing position on the ladder.

    The round-robin match which ended up deciding the cup was won by Great Britain 27-21.

    1. Marshall, Fien, Hohaia and a penalty try take Kiwis to a maiden cup (2008)
    If you stubbornly only want to see Australia win the World Cup, then maybe 2008 wasn’t your favourite year, but if we are all being honest, this has to top the list of international rugby league moments in history.

    As they tend to do, Australia cruised through the group stages, hammering the Kiwis, running 52 up against England and smashing Papua New Guinea.

    The semi-final saw a 52-0 drubbing of Fiji, while New Zealand shakily got past England.

    With the final set to be held at Suncorp Stadium, the home of Billy Slater, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith, in front of 51,000 screaming Queenslanders, it was supposed to be a formality.

    Australia were going to lift the trophy. There was no doubt about it.

    Even at halftime, Australia, leading by four points, were still supposed to cruise to victory. But then it started with Lance Hohaia putting the Kiwis back into the lead in the 47th minute, stepping around Lockyer to score.

    Pressure on Billy Slater then caused the mistake to end all mistakes as Benji Marshall scooped up the ball and ran away to score, extending the lead.

    Greg Inglis got Australia back into the contest, but that would be where the fun ended for the Kangaroos as the Kiwi fullback Hohaia was awarded a penalty try before Adam Blair put the icing on the cake.

    It was the biggest upset in the history of international rugby league, bar none.

    Roarers, what do you reckon? Let us know in the comments below what your favourite World Cup moments and matches are.

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