• December 27 down the years

The Hurricane blows hot

The sporting events of December 27 down the years
Alex Higgins had to show quality and stamina © Getty Images

The Hurricane had to blow for days on end. New young snooker sensation Alex Higgins (born March 18, 1949), won a dramatic and exhausting World Professional Championship semi-final 32-31 against Rex Williams. The final wasn't played until February 26, the following year.

London Irish became the first rugby union team to drop four goals in a Premiership match in England. Mark Mapletoft equalled another record by dropping three of them. But Irish still lost 22-21 to Northampton, who scored with a drop of their own.

The Barbarians' first ever match, against Hartlepool Rovers at the Friarage Field, Hartlepool. The Baa-Baas fielded some of the most famous players in Britain, including Randolph Aston, Froude Hancock, and Test cricketers Sammy Woods, Gregor McGregor, and Drewy Stoddart, as well as their founder Percy Carpmael. England international Alfred Allport scored the first try, Aston the second, McGregor the third, all converted by McGregor, who kicked well in a strong wind. In the second half, Scott and Burt scored tries for Hartlepool.

Larissa Latynina was born in the USSR. We're talking numbers here. The biggest in Olympic history. Gymnasts always have the best chance of winning several medals in a single competition - so Latynina was able to amass 18 Olympic medals, a record that still stands. She won six of them in 1964 alone, and nine were golds, including the all-round title in 1956 and 1960. She won a world title on every piece of apparatus and the all-round title in 1958 and 1962.

A favourite day for deciding Davis Cup finals in Australia.

In 1946 an American dream team of Jack Kramer and 'Ted' Schroeder regained the trophy lost to Australia in 1939. Too virile for the gentle John Bromwich and the overrated Dinny Pails, they won 5-0, dropping only two sets, both by Schroeder in the opening match against a brave Bromwich.

Ten years later, in 1956, Australia took full revenge. This time they had the two all-time greats, Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall, winners of all four Grand Slam singles titles that year. Hoad thrashed Herbie Flam, and although Rosewall dropped a set to former Wimbledon champion Vic Seixas, he won two of the other three 6-1. Hoad and Rosewall were regular doubles partners, too - so 5-0 was always on the cards.

By 1957, Hoad and Rosewall had turned pro, but Australia found able subs in Mal Anderson and Ashley Cooper, who won their opening singles matches in five sets. Anderson then teamed up with Merv Rose to win the doubles on the second day.

In those days, Davis Cup Challenge Rounds in Australia were always played on grass - so the clay court specialists had no chance: Italy in 1960 and 1961, Mexico in 1962, Spain in 1968.

In both years, the Italians had to face three Wimbledon singles champions, present or future. In 1960, Orlando Sirola took the first set of the tie against Neale Fraser, but that was as good as it got. Rod Laver beat Nicola Pietrangeli in straight sets, and the two Italians lost the doubles in four sets to Fraser and Roy Emerson. The following year, Pietrangeli and Sirola lost 5-0, the first three matches without winning a set.

In 1962, Australia won 5-0 for the second year running. Rafael Osuna and Antonio Palafox were a decent team, but again the Laver-Fraser-Emerson axis was far too strong.

If the 1967 decider had been played on clay, Spain would have fancied their chances. Manuel Santana had won the French title twice, and Manuel Orantes won the US Open on clay in 1975. But Orantes was only 18 in 1967, and although Santana won Wimbledon in 1966, it was only because Emerson injured himself in an earlier round when he was hoping to win the title for the third year in a row. Now he hammered Santana 6-4 6-1 6-1 in the opening match, and Wimbledon champion John Newcombe was similarly ruthless with Orantes. And Newcombe and Tony Roche won four Wimbledon doubles titles together, so Australia won the first three matches without dropping a set. Emerson finished on the winning side for the eighth time, still the record.

The following year, 1968, Australia put out a real C team. None of the aforementioned stars, just the average Bill Bowrey and Ray Ruffels, who made a fight of it against Clark Graebner and Arthur Ashe but finished the first day 2-0 down. In the doubles, Ruffels teamed up with 17-year-old John Alexander, the youngest player in any Davis Cup Final, but they had little chance against a top pair like Stan Smith and Bob Lutz.

Tim Witherspoon was born. The first time Frank Bruno fought for a world heavyweight title, in 1986, he ran into Terrible Tim, who stopped him in the 11th round. No stylist, our Timothy, but he could bang, and Frank couldn't cope with being banged. Witherspoon had been around by then. In 1983 he'd lost a world title fight to Larry Holmes. It was only a split decision and only his 16th pro bout. He took the vacant WBC title by beating Greg Page, lost it to Pinklon Thomas, then took the WBA belt from Tony Tubbs. In his next defence after the Bruno fight, he was stunned by James 'Bonecrusher' Smith on December 12, 1986, and didn't fight for a world title again, despite carrying on until 2003, by which time he was 45.

Phil Terranova had lost his previous two fights, but he'd stopped Jackie Callura to win the NBA world featherweight title earlier in the year, and now he did it again, knocking Callura down four times before the referee stopped the fight in the sixth.