As the teams battled each other early on in the Group stages, one match went down as the biggest shock of the tournament. With Portugal down 23-17 against Fiji and only 2 minutes to go, a brilliant last-minute try from Rodrigo Marta, followed by a conversion in the final seconds of the match brought Portugal to the lead, defeating the Flying Fijians 24-23. The Quarter Finals sparked great upset, with New Zealand beating former World Number 1’s, Ireland, in a nail-biting 38-24 win. The loss brought tears for the Irish as captain Johnny Sexton played his final game before retirement.
Four teams advanced into the semi-finals, with England, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina all fighting for a spot in the final match in Paris. The All Blacks were the first team to make the final, smashing Argentina 44-6 with an exhilarating performance from Ardie Savea and Beauden Barrett. The England vs South Africa game brought heightened controversy to the rugby world. After the Red Roses narrowly missed a place in the final, losing 15-16 to the South African Springboks, England player Tom Curry accused South African hooker Bongi Mbonambi of making a racial slur towards him, calling him a ‘white c–t’. England fans were fuming as South Africa soared their way into the final.
The final contest between the All Blacks and the Springboks was certainly one of drama. New Zealand’s captain Sam Cane was given a red card in the 27th minute of the game for a dangerous tackle. This decision from referee Wayne Barnes sparked major controversy, as never before had a player been sent off in a World Cup final, certainly not the captain. With one player down, the All Blacks lagged behind, and by half time the Springboks led 12-6. As the second half commenced, the drama was not over. A skillful try from All Blacks Aaron Smith was disallowed due to a knock-on by Ardie Savea, though a legal one was scored shortly after bringing the score to 11-12. A game-winning kick was missed by New Zealand player Jordie Barett, followed by some incredible tackles from South African players Eben Etzebeth and Cheslin Kolbe, stopping the All Blacks from equalizing. Despite an incredible fight from the New Zealand team, the South African side clung on and clinched the 12-11 win at full-time.
It was certainly a World Cup Rugby tournament to remember, and while the Springboks were the ones to take the Webb Ellis Cup home, all 20 nations were thrilled to compete and take part in such an inspiring sporting event.