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Top 3 drop goals in international rugby history

By Jack Tunney
Jonathan Sexton of Ireland kicks a last second drop goal to win the game during the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images).

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With teams becoming fitter, stronger, and more evenly matched, it is not uncommon for teams to be within just a few points of each other as the final whistle approaches.


Those last few minutes of a rugby game are quite often the most intensive of the entire match.When two sides are battling it out at the business end of the game, a three point score can quite literally change the result.

Below we look at the three greatest drop goals in international rugby union history:

1: Jonny Wilkinson – Rugby World Cup 2003

Jonny Wilkinson of England kicks the winning drop-goal against Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final at the Telstra Stadium on November 22nd 2003 in Sydney, Australia (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images).

Why does it find its way to the top?

The pressure of the occasion, the fact he used his weaker foot, and the fact it is quite possibly the most famous of all drop goals.

Ask any England rugby fan what the greatest moment in rugby history was, and they are almost guaranteed to be unanimous in their responses. Without hesitation, it is likely to be England’s Rugby World Cup victory over Australia in 2003, and the kick that won it for them.

England had progressed through the tournament strongly, with some bruising wins along the way. Jonny Wilkinson had been a vital part of the campaign right up until the final, with his boot keeping the English side moving forward both on the field and the scoreboard.


The final was a typically tense affair. With no love lost between the two foes over the years, it was always going to be a tight one.

Disappoint us it did not, with an exchange of scores all throughout the game, the two sides found themselves level on points at full time.

With mere minutes left to play in extra-time, Jonny held his nerve and slotted the most famous of drop goals.

Jonny explains how he felt at the time:


“I can feel my leg going back but it’s not me kicking it, it’s a knowing of it. As I hit the ball the sensation is what I knew it was going to be.

“It’s only when the ball gets a few yards past the post I then realise what the hell has happened and I do this half-hearted celebration which is almost disbelief because I hadn’t been there to really see it.”

2: Dan Carter, Rugby World Cup 2015

Dan Carter of the New Zealand All Blacks kicks a drop goal to put his side 24-17 ahead during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

You can’t really have a list with Jonny Wilkinson on, without mentioning Dan Carter, can you?

The three time world player of the year, Dan Carter, has been described as the perfect ten. He was able to do it all.

This was epitomised in his grand All Blacks finale at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Carter had been unfortunate to have picked up a pretty serious injury during his side’s last campaign four years prior, which had led to him missing out on the latter stages of the tournament.

Although New Zealand went on to win the competition in 2011, missing out on playing would have hurt him. So, when Carter’s New Zealand lined up against Australia in the all southern hemisphere final in 2015, it was his chance for redemption.

A man of the match performance from the ever accomplished Carter, his actions in the 70th minute really showed the quality and the maturity of the man.

With Australia still within touching distance, Carter read the situation and delivered a forty metre drop goal to extend the All Blacks lead to over seven points. This of course forced the Aussies to chase the game, and as a result lost rather heavily in the end.

Playing some of his best ever rugby, Carter was able to help his side win back to back world cups for the first time in history.

3: Johnny Sexton, 2018 Six Nations Championship

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland kicks a last second drop goal to win the game during the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images).

Former world player of the year Johnny Sexton has to get a mention in this list. Not just renowned for his impeccable game control and the ability to play at such high standards for so many years, he also has a very handy boot.

This particular drop goal in question came in 2018 whilst playing for Ireland against France in the Six Nations Championship. The game had been nothing remarkable up until that point, dominated by mistakes and sub-par play. As the game drew to a close, the Irish found themselves 13-12 down with two minutes to play.

This led to some of the most controlled play we have ever seen on a rugby field. With the stakes as high as they come, the men in green put together a remarkable forty-one phases, hammering against the French defence.

Despite going down with cramp a few phases earlier, Sexton rallied himself to slot over the sweetest of drop goals from just over the forty metre line in the 83rd minute.

With Ireland going on to win the grand slam that year, that piece of individual brilliance proved ever so important.



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