Rugby World Cup 2015: Tournament awards and highlights

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  • What was your highlight of the Rugby World Cup?

    The Rugby World Cup best match, player, try, funniest and most heart-warming moment feature among the accolades as Sport360 looks back on a magnificent tournament.

    Best match
    The beauty of this World Cup has been the performances of the tier-two nations and none have been more spectacular than Japan’s victory over South Africa. In the short-term it was a match that lit up a World Cup but the victory’s long-term effects were just as important. Japan’s win captured the hearts of a nation (where rugby is very much a minority sport) to the extent that 20 million viewers back home tuned in to watch the match against Scotland. This was the largest domestic TV audience for a rugby game ever and lays an important foundation of interest ahead of Japan 2019.

    Best player
    Australia exceeded all expectations by reaching the final and their supreme work ethic was best personified by the genius of David Pocock. Playing out of position at number eight, the Zimbabwe-born flanker put two years of injury trouble behind him to top the leader board for turnovers and was a constant thorn in the side of all of Australian opponents. Heading into the final, Pocock looked like a raccoon with two black eyes that were a typical feature of a player that put his body on the line for the gold shirt every time he played. 

    Best try
    Any try in a Rugby World Cup is special but one of Julian Savea’s three scores against France in the quarter-final stood out from the rest for sheer individual brilliance. The bulldozing winger took a short ball from Kieran Read in a wide channel and treated the three French defenders in front of him like speed bumps as he crashed over the white line in a brutal display of power and determination. It was a breath-taking piece of play that drew comparisons with Jonah Lomu’s famous quarter-final score against England in 1995.

    Funniest moment
    During France’s 41-18 demolition of Canada in the group stages, there was a brief moment of respite for the North Americans as France prepared for an attacking lineout. The Maple Leafs’ 1.96m enforcer and French speaker Jamie Cudmore was spotted crouching behind the French huddle trying to eavesdrop on and told in no uncertain terms to “assez, aller!”

    Best refereeing moment
    Eccentric Welsh referee Nigel Owens is one of the game’s best-loved characters and during the Scotland v South Africa clash at Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park, he did nothing to diminish that reputation. Prior to the tournament referees were briefed to clamp down hard on any simulation and after Scottish full-back Stuart Hogg’s dramatic fall, Owens suggested that maybe he should ‘come back and play here in two weeks’ with the footballers. Brilliant.

    Worst refereeing moment
    Scotland were robbed of a place in the semi-finals by an incorrect decision by referee Craig Joubert that handed Australia a thrilling 35-34 victory in what was one of the games of the tournament. While there is no excuse for the pathetic barrage of abuse that Joubert suffered from journalists and former players in the aftermath, it was a costly error that devastated a nation. Joubert’s decision to sprint from the field didn’t help his case but regardless, rugby is a sport that respects its referees, right or wrong.

    Best supporter

    From a host of rugby-mad English royals to Australian diva Kylie Minogue, this was a difficult award to judge but the winner goes to Diego Maradona. The Argentinean football legend fully embraced the spirit of the tournament and became the Pumas’ lucky charm as they stormed into the tournament semi-finals. Following Ireland’s dismantling in the quarter-finals the former football World Cup winner was even filmed joining in the celebrations in the changing rooms.

    Heart-warming moment
    PR-genius or genuine moment of humility? Either way when Sonny Bill Williams gave his medal to a young New Zealand fan who had dodged security to get on the pitch, the rugby world’s heart was warmed. Yes, Sonny Bill does already have a World Cup winner’s medal but even so, to give away a piece of gold that represents four years of backbreaking work is an image that will live long in the hearts of rugby fans and World Cup montages alike.