When Russian side Krasny Yar shocked Stade Francais on opening weekend, the rugby rulebook was turned upside down and inside out. The Siberian minnows upset the apple cart by beating the Parisian powerhouses 34 – 29 in Krasnoyarsk. We’ll admit that playing away in Russia surely can’t be easy, but it remains amongst the biggest upsets of all time. While ranking the others we came across some huge shocks, here are some of the best.
Wales vs New Zealand, 1905
When New Zealand exported its first touring side, it was at no small cost. After a boat trip lasting weeks they arrived to face the best of the British Isles, and won. They played 39 games under their now famous captain Dave Gallaher and triumphed at every hurdle barring one. It’s said that kiwi winger Bob Deans brought his controversially disallowed try to his death bed after being “pulled back across the try line before the referee could catch up”. It was a win that asserted Wales as the kings of British rugby, and stopped the plundering All Black invasion completely white washing their tour.
Tonga vs Australia, 1973
In the same year that they completed a successful tour of Great Britain, the Wallabies were no slouches. The Australians have never not been a top level team, but not so for Tonga. The pacific bruisers had not yet lifted themselves to the heights of a tier one nation. So when they toppled the Australians on their own turf 16 – 11, all of the 9,563 people in Brisbane were shocked. It’s not as if they won by fluke either, in the days of 4 point tries they well outscored their opponents with an expansive game and pulled off a shocker 16 – 11.
France vs New Zealand, 1999
The surprise nobody saw coming but now everyone knows. On the biggest stage at the World Cup, against possibly rugby’s biggest ever star in Jonah Lomu, the French did what only they can do. Their madness outdid the All Black defence by doing what it didn’t expect, purely because nobody would ever expect it. Cross-field kicks, ambitious offloads and running rugby ran riot in the semi final. With predictable French unpredictability they didn’t win the final, but they beat the team that were a shoe in for the cup, and left an indelible mark on the competitions history.
Newport vs New Zealand, 1963
Colin Meads is widely considered to be the greatest All Black of all time. Newport probably wouldn’t be considered to be the best welsh province, never mind the worlds best team. That didn’t stop them tearing into the mighty All Black lock at home. Rodney Parade was bursting at the seams to see one of the finest touring sides of all time, and they certainly got their money’s worth. With abhorrent weather conditions playing havoc with the All Black’s skilful game, Newport brought intensity and heart in droves and it saw them over the line to one of the biggest upsets of all time 3 – 0.
Romania vs Wales, 1988
Welsh great Jonathan Davies said of their 1988 fixture at the Arms Park, “Looking at our forwards that day I thought, ‘O God, we’re in trouble”. He wasn’t wrong. On one of rugby’s most sacred grounds, Romania upset the elders and won the game in front of the 19,000 fans that witnessed the chaos. Times were changing in both countries, the professional rugby era was dawning in Wales, and in Romania the Iron Curtain was on its way down. The teams were so different, but Romania wanted it more, and they battered their way to a 15 – 9 win never to be forgotten.
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