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Mon 17 Feb 2020 | 08:58

The agony and ecstasy of THAT try

Ruhan Nel - Post Lions v Stormers Press Conference
Mon 17 Feb 2020 | 08:58
The agony and ecstasy of THAT try

SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: Acclaimed @rugby365com writer Paul Dobson takes a look at the match-winning try at Ellis Park and what it meant for both the Lions and Stormers.

It’s the best way to win, the very worst way to lose – that last-minute score that swaps losing for winning and winning for losing.

This is what happened in Johannesburg at the weekend, when the Lions played the Stormers and the latter won 33-30.

If you looked at the coaching boxes after the final whistle, you would not have been able to tell from the coaches’ expressions who had won the match – for they looked equally dazed, faces devoid of any expression.

Such was the unreality of the ending.

It was a match the Stormers were expected to win and yet with three minutes to play Elton Jantjies kicked a 50-metre penalty to give the Lions a 30-26 lead.

The Stormers kicked off and with two minutes to go the ball was out on the half-way line, Lions’ throw-in. Pieter Jansen throws in to Wilhelm van der Sluys at No.2 in the line-out. Intent on keeping the ball for the time left, the Lions form a maul just in from touch, The Stormers contest, the maul falls down and as a result referee Jaco Peyper awards a scrum to the Stormers.

The scrum is five metres from touch on the Stormers’ left and it is on the half-way line. Before Paul de Wet of the Stormers can put the ball into the scrum, the hooter sounds to tell the players and the world that the 80 minutes’ playing time is up.

Under pressure, Juarno Augustus pops the ball to De Wet, who passes to Jean-Luc du Plessis at flyhalf as the Stormers go right. Suddenly Seabelo Senatla, the left wing, takes an outside gap. He gives to Dillyn Leyds who gives the Sergeal Petersen on the right wing.

Back come the Stormers wide left. Hooker Chad Solomon dashes and does well to avoid going into touch. The Stormers go right and change direction before Du Plessis throws a long pass out to his right. The ball is dipping as Petersen gets it and plays inside to Ruhan Nel, who scores the try that wins the match.

That 50-metre passage from halfway to try, took the Stormers just under two minutes. Doing a 100 metres in two minutes is not fast! But on the way there, there were 19 passes.

Every pass is a risk – the actual passing, the catching and keeping the ball away from opponents. Every pass could have ended the game, and those watching are aware of this. Disaster and success are just one pass away.

It is perhaps sport’s greatest moment and its greatest agony.

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Last year an injury-time try by scrumhalf Te Toirua Tahuriorongo gave the Chiefs a 30-27 victory over the Jaguares, but that took just five metres and one pass.

There was one in the 1987 World Cup semifinal between France and Australia. Australia was leading 24-23, when France won a scrum, about 10 metres inside the Australian half and ran. There were two passes, a kick and then another eight passes before fullback Serge Blanco raced some 20 metres to score in the left corner, and France was through to the very first World Cup Final.

Then there was the try from the end of the world – Eden Park, 1994. France had won the first Test of the two-Test series, but the All Blacks were leading 20-16 in Auckland, with two minutes to play. Stephen Bachop, the All Black flyhalf kicked downfield into the French 22, where Philippe Saint-André, the French captain on the left wing gathered the ball and started running. Lock Mark Cooksley tackled Saint-André near the French 10-metre line and the French wove a series of eight passes before fullback Jean-Luc Sadourny scored the try that won the match and the series. The French were the first northern hemisphere team to win a series in New Zealand. It took 65 seconds from the time Saint-André got the ball till Sardourny scored.

Asked afterwards why he had started running, Saint-André shrugged dismissively and said: “Because I kick so badly.”

Not only tries produce such exciting turnabouts.

England’s played Australia in Sydney in the Final of the 2003 World Cup. The match went into extra time at 14-all. It was still 14-all with 20 seconds of extra time left when Martin Johnson charged and went to ground. The ball came back to Matt Dawson who passed to Jonny Wilkinson. With George Gregan charging at him, left-footed Wilkinson kicked a right-footed drop-goal which won the World Cup.

For South Africans there was their dropped goal that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The score was 12-all in extra time at Ellis Park when, from a scrum, Joost van der Westhuizen passed the ball back to Joel Stransky, who kicked a soaring drop-goal that won the World Cup – probably the most famous score in South Africa’s rugby history.

Memories are made of this.

PV: 2094

The Agony And Ecstasy Of That Try | Rugby365