Rugby World Cup
Ten moments that made Rugby World Cup 2015
ESPN Staff
October 28, 2015
New Zealand 34-17 Australia (Australia only)

South Africa '95 had Pienaar and Mandela, Australia '03 had Jonny's drop goal, and New Zealand '11 had the All Blacks shaking off the tag of chokers. What will England '15 be most remembered for? ESPN has had reporters at every game of the tournament and here our team -- Tom Hamilton, Sam Bruce, Greg Growden, Martyn Thomas, Rob Bartlett and Tristan Barclay -- presents the 10 moments that made the latest Rugby World Cup possibly the greatest yet.

September 19: Awesome Japan stun South Africa

After England's drab opening victory over Fiji, it was Japan who ignited the tournament on the first Saturday with one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. Up against the most-experienced South Africa side ever, the so-called minnows played with courage by the bucketload and refused to take an easy draw at the death, instead kicking to touch for a match-winning try and the hearts of neutrals worldwide. The World Cup would develop into one in which Tier Two nations closed the gap on their senior rivals, and Japan were the side to set that ball rolling in emphatic style with victory in Brighton.

Ayumu Goromaru
Ayumu Goromaru© Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

September 24: Johan Deysel puts one on the All Blacks

The scoreboard showed a comfortable win for reigning champions New Zealand, but it was no embarrassment for Namibia in the Pool C clash at the cavernous Olympic Stadium. Spurred on by inspirational captain Jacques Burger, the tournament's lowest-ranked side battled bravely to limit the All Blacks to five first-half tries. After they break, they even managed to score one of their own. It was a stylish move, not down to poor All Blacks defending and, as Johan Deysel dotted down, the stadium erupted into a noise not heard since its 2012 Olympics days.

Johan Deysel
Johan Deysel© Chris Lee - World Rugby/World Rugby

September 26: DTHVDM touches down for Canada

"Try for Canada! That might be the try of the tournament so far, Van Der Merwe starts and finishes a flowing counter attack for the Canadians, slaloming through the Azzurri defence before diving gleefully under the posts." That was how ESPN described DTH van der Merwe's breathtaking try at Elland Road, which showed the world just what Canada's exciting backline could do.

D.T.H van der Merwe
D.T.H van der Merwe© Jan Kruger/Getty Images

September 27: Ireland vs. Romania sets World Cup attendance record

The tournament's use of so many non-rugby stadiums caused a few raised eyebrows in the sport's heartlands, but the 89,267 rugby fans inside Wembley ensured an otherwise run-of-the-mill pool game between Ireland and Romania would go down in history. The sell-out at the home of football was the Rugby World Cup's highest ever attendance, with Ireland running in six tries to mark the momentous occasion.

Ireland v Romania
Ireland v Romania© Chris Lee - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

September 27: Wales ruin England's party

Ravaged by injury and facing the hosts in their home stadium, Wales battled back from 25-18 with 10 minutes remaining to ruin England's party. The two countries have played out some monumental Six Nations Tests in recent years, but it looked as though England had the upper hand in the Pool A clash after Jonny May went over for a first-half try. Wales were dropping like flies - Hallam Amos, Liam Williams, and Scott Williams all left the field in pain - but their fightback after half-time was irresistible. With the final whistle looming, England could have taken a kick for the draw, but skipper Chris Robshaw opted for the corner. His gamble failed to pay off, and England's campaign was in a mess.

Dan Biggar
Dan Biggar© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

October 3: Australia end the hosts' tournament

While England led until the last 10 minutes against Wales, they were blown out of the water by a Bernard Foley-inspired Australia side just a week later. It was supposed to be the Pool A decider, but the gulf between the two sides was stomach-churning for the home fans. Foley touched down for two tries and kicked seven from seven for a personal tally of 28 points. England managed a second-half try via Anthony Watson, but by then it was too late, and the sight of Matt Giteau leaping over for the Wallabies' third was enough to make the host nation's collective heart sink to the Twickenham turf.

Bernard Foley
Bernard Foley© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

October 9: Battle of the war dances in Newcastle

New Zealand vs. Tonga in Newcastle brought with it the tournament's only fixture containing two of what World Rugby rather euphemistically calls "cultural challenges". The All Blacks with their haka went up against Tonga and the Sipi Tau, setting a full-blooded tone for the Test between the giants and minnows of the South Pacific. No one was sure whether the sides would war dance at the same time or one after the other. In the end, the All Blacks commenced midway through the Sipi Tau, treating the St James' Park crowd to a momentous spectacle. Twickenham might have its fireworks, but this was pre-match entertainment of the highest grade.

New Zealand v Tonga
New Zealand v Tonga© Jan Kruger/Getty Images

October 10: Australia make their goalline stand

You can call it guts, determination, spirit or fight, but to an Australian, the Wallabies' 15-6 win over Wales fell under one simple category: ticker. With England long out of the tournament, the clash at Twickenham was to decide who finished top of Pool A. However, it looked as though Australia were bound to lose when they went down to 13 men in the second-half, thanks to the twin sin-binnings of Will Genia and Dean Mumm. What followed was one of the greatest ever defensive performances, with the green and gold shirts holding back assault after assault on their tryline. The Welsh attack was blunted and the Wallabies' credentials at title-contenders cemented.

David Pocock
David Pocock© ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

October 18: Craig Joubert runs for cover

The prize for Australia's victory over Wales was a supposedly-straightforward quarterfinal against Scotland. Vern Cotter's men, however, must have missed the memo and ran the Wallabies to within 10 seconds of defeat at Twickenham. They weren't the only ones running hard, though. Referee Craig Joubert, perhaps spooked by his own controversial call for an Australian penalty at the death, which Bernard Foley duly kicked for victory, appeared to sprint from the field at fulltime. It was a sour moment as Joubert eschewed the usual post-match civilities with players and officials alike, but the attacks on the referee from pundits and World Rugby stretched the spirit of the game to its limits.

© David Rogers/Getty Images

October 18: Argentina shock Europe's last hope

After the humiliations for England and France, and Wales' last-gasp defeat by South Africa, Ireland stood on quarterfinal Sunday as the northern hemisphere's only hope of a World Cup challenger. In fact, they had been many people's tournament dark horses, led by the great Paul O'Connell and masterminded by the tenacious Joe Schmidt. However, by the time they faced Argentina in the last eight, injury and suspension had shorn them of four of their best players, and they had no match for the footballing excellence of the Pumas midfield. Southern hemisphere rugby reigned supreme, sending Europe firmly back to the drawing board.

Juan Imhoff
Juan Imhoff© Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
© ESPN Staff

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