Last weekend witnessed another thrilling round Six Nations action and yet more examples of game-changing individual brilliance.
Keith Earls (Ireland) on Mattia Bellini (Italy), Six Nations, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, February 10, 2018
There was less than a minute of the game remaining in Dublin when Italy’ Mattia Bellini pounced for an interception on his own line before setting off for the Irish line.
The result had long since been decided thanks to a dominant display from the hosts but Earls had no intention of letting up and allowing Italy a four-try bonus point.
Cutting across the field at incredible pace given the stage of the game, Earls swiftly ate into his rival’s advantage and finally snared him as he crossed into the 22.
His awe-inspiring efforts earned a standing ovation from team-mates Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray and high-praise from ITV commentator Gordon D’Arcy who said, “He showed real hunger, real passion, to play for Ireland.”
Sam Underhill (England) on Scott Williams (Wales), Six Nations, Twickenham, February 10, 2018
Earls’ effort was arguably trumped by Underhill in a tense tussle with Wales at Twickenham.
With the England defence stretched, Wales flooded the short side where the ball found its way to Scott Williams.
The Welshman’s pace accounted for England’s Mike Brown who eased up admitting defeat in his chase while Williams launched into a dive hoping to use the wet conditions to his advantage.
But Underhill had spotted the danger and launched a one-man rescue mission with a power-packed run that started 30m away an ended with Williams being dragged into touch just inches short of the line.
Williams slowly climbed to his feet with a look of disbelief at the man who had robbed him of his 13th Test try.
But how do these stunners compare to some of the greatest try-saving tackles we’ve seen on the Test stage in the modern era?
George Gregan (Australia) on Jeff Wilson (New Zealand), Bledisloe Cup, Sydney Football Stadium, August 17, 1994
In just his fourth appearance in the Green and Gold, Gregan announced himself to the world with a breath-taking tackle on Wilson in the closing moments of a thrilling Bledisloe Cup battle.
Wing wizard Wilson looked poised to set to cap a remarkable comeback – they had trailed 17-6 at the break – as he ghosted past three defenders and closed in on what would have been the match-winning try.
“A try looked pretty well certain,” former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer told the ARU in 2013, “then out of the clouds came George Gregan.”
Gregan’s last-ditch tackle may not have stopped Wilson in his tracks but crucially it did dislodge the ball and ensure a 20-16 victory.
It also left this rival dumfounded and ignited one of the greatest careers the game has ever seen.
“I was just covering, doing what every other half back does,” recalled the man himself. “I was just lucky enough to make that tackle in the corner and dislodge the ball. You try and make that tackle another 100 times you would never make it.”
Josh Lewsey (England) on Jean De Villiers (South Africa), Twickenham, November 18, 2006
If ever a moment showcased Lewsey’s lightning pace and never-say-die approach it was this lung-busting effort to deny De Villiers a near-certain score.
England were pressing on the Boks’ 22 when De Viliers latched onto a loose pass from Charlie Hodgson before galloping downfield with no defender in sight.
But Lewsey was quick to react and his incredible pace soon brought him into range and even granted him time to line up his rival before hauling him down and dragging him into touch just short of the try line.
England went on to claim a narrow 23-21 victory with Lewsey’s outstanding effort arguably as valuable as any of his 22 Test tries.
“There was only ever going to be one turning point in this dog-eat-dog of a game and ultimately it was the try that never was,” reported The Daily Telegraph’s Brendan Gallagher.
“Lewsey’s brilliant last-ditch tackle on the long-striding Jean de Villiers in the 14th minute, after he had intercepted Charlie Hodgson’s pass, was the little bit of magic that allowed England to believe that, no matter how scrappy and tense, this might be their day…Morale-wise it was as good as scoring a try under the Springboks posts.”
Adam Ashley Cooper (Australia) on Lwazi Mvovo and Jean De Villiers (South Africa), Patersons Stadium, Perth, September 8, 2012
Why make just one try-saving tackle when you can make two in the same play?
The Wallabies held a narrow 16-13 lead as the game approached the hour mark and with the Springboks pushing for a score that would turn the contest in their favour.
A short side move n the Wallabies’ 22 appeared to have caught the hosts asleep and Mvovo galloped into towards the line with De Villiers looming on his shoulder for what he hope would be a try-scoring pass.
But Ashley-Cooper had other ideas. He launched himself at his rivals and managed to not only catch Mvovo but then pull De Villiers down as he collected his team-mate’s desperate off load.
But the ever-popular Ashley-Cooper wasn’t done and he snuffed out the danger completely by dragging the Boks’ captain into touch.
“There’s been a few jokes about it, two-for-one special,” said Ashley-Cooper after the game. “I can’t explain it. I was a bit lucky. I committed to one and ended up making another. I was lucky I didn’t get done for two high shots in the one tackle!”
“His amazing try-saving feat midway through the second half of their seven-point win against the Springboks on Saturday night was priceless,” reported The Australian’s Bret Harris.
Ayumu Goromaru (Japan) on Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Rugby World Cup, Kingsholm, September 23, 2015
There can be little doubt that Japan were among the stars of the 2015 Rugby World Cup with their victory over South Africa probably the biggest shock in the history of the competition.
A cruel match schedule demanded that just four days after that incredible but energy-sapping victory they had to face Scotland in their second pool clash.
Unfortunately they were unable to conjure the same kind of heroics with the Scots eventually claiming a 45-10 victory but the game was very much in the balance at the break thanks to Goromaru’s outstanding tackle on Tommy Seymour.
A fizzing pass from Finn Russell found Seymour on the wing in acres of space and he powered towards the line only to be thwarted by a certain Brave Blossom who sent his rival flying into touch.
“That was one of the greatest try-saving tackle I have ever seen!” exclaimed former Scotland international Chris Paterson, on TV commentary duty for the host broadcasters.
Seymour would later cross the whitewash as the Scots swept their tired rivals aside and with victory safely secured the wing was able to see the funny side.
“Finally managed to get myself to Leeds,” he told his Twitter followers, referring to the next stop on the Scots’ World Cup campaign. “Took a little longer that the rest of the lads after Goramaru sent me three counties over with that hit!”
Jerome Kaino (New Zealand) on Digby Ioane (Australia), Rugby World Cup 2011 Semi-final, Eden Park, Auckland, October 16, 2011
More often than not, the key factor in a try-saving is the defender’s ability to cover great ground in next to no time in order to deny an opponent – but on this occasion in Auckland back in 2011 it was strength rather than speed that saved the day.
New Zealand were agonisingly close to a first World Cup final appearance since 1995 and the pressure to deliver in front of their home crowd ensured a nervy night at Eden Park.
The Australians sensed an upset and perhaps none more so than Ioane who stormed into the All Blacks’ 22 at pace on the quarter hour with dangerous intent.
Four would-be tacklers were brushed aside and it looked like Kaino would join that list as Ioane surged past him and towards the line for what would be a momentum-swinging score.
But the cool-headed Kiwi colossus recovered in time to not only halt his rival’s progress but also pick him up and drag him backwards as Wallabies thundered into his back hoping to drive Ioane over the line.
The Wallabies were restricted to a penalty but it would not be enough with the All Blacks eventually triumphing 20-6 and to progress to the title-decider – and we all know what happened there.
“It looked more like a wrestling move than a tackle, but it was mightily effective,” wrote Patrick McKendry for Rugby World. “Kaino’s desperate tackle stopped the Wallabies in their tracks and also sent an inspirational message to his own team: losing this match is not an option.”
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand) on Willie Le Roux (South Africa), Rugby Championship, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, October 5, 2013
Barrett was still a bit-part player for the All Blacks when he produced a stunning effort to deny Le Roux and stun Ellis Park.
It was just one sensational act from an epic title-decider but do not let that detract from Barrett’s brilliance that underlined the fact that he was destined for great things.
The fleet-footed Le Roux snaffled an interception inside his own half before accelerating away at high speed. “They won’t get him,” called a confident Justin Marshall from the commentary box.
But Barrett, not content with having scored the try that ensured the All Blacks would win the Championship, set off in hot pursuit and rapidly closed in on his man before throwing his head into the heels of Le Roux in a desperate bid to defend his line.
Referee Nigel Owens, who pulled a muscle attempting to keep up with play, had to call on the TMO who confirmed Barrett had in fact forced Le Roux’s trailing foot into touch just short of the line.
“It was an epic game and an epic contribution from Barrett,” reported NZ Rugby World.
Matt Perry (England) on Jonah Lomu (New Zealand), Carisbrook, Dunedin, June 20, 1998
England’s so-called ‘Tour of Hell’ is remembered by most for all the wrong reasons thanks largely to a 76-0 defeat to Australia and a 64-22 hiding at the hands of New Zealand.
Highlights were hard to come by with Perry’s brave yet brilliant tackle on a rampaging Lomu in the early stages of that latter game a rare example of how to expertly nullify one the greatest attacking threats the game has ever seen.
“It was not impossible to tackle him,” recalled England No.8 Ben Clarke, “I remember my Bath and England team-mate Matt Perry bringing him down one time, albeit a bit like a stick in the spokes of a bicycle wheel — but you had to be so technically spot on to tackle him, otherwise you went the same way as Mike Catt and many, many others.”
James O’Connor (Australia) on Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Rugby World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, 2011
Australia were camped on Ireland’s line in the latter stages of their pool clash at the 2011 Rugby World Cup when Quade Cooper attempted a typically outrageous behind-the-back pass that was intercepted by Bowe.
With an open field in front of him, the Irishman looked odds on to heap further woe on the Wallabies but O’Connor produced a superb length-of-the-field effort to save the try – if not the game.
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