Japan caused what is probably the biggest ever shock in international rugby as they beat South Africa 34-32 in the Rugby World Cup.
South Africa, one of the best sides in rugby, had their opening match against minnows Japan. It was expected to be a thrashing, an easy match for the Springboks to begin the tournament. Instead, it turned into one of the greatest upsets of all time.
Japan kept up the pace with South Africa throughout the game, the score being 12-10 to the Springboks at half-time. Ayumu Goromaro was the Brave Blossoms’ hero, scoring 24 points to keep his time within touching distance. Captain Michael Leitch had been fantastic throughout.
The score was level for long periods during the match. However, with normal time over and a Japan try just ruled out, the score was 32-29 to South Africa. The fans wearing green in Brighton drew a collective sigh of relief. Japan had pushed them all the way, but they had survived.
But the game wasn’t over yet. Japan had a scrum five metres from the try line. Phase after phase couldn’t break down the defence, and any mistake would end the game.
Finally, with every Japanese supporter and neutral on their feet in the Brighton Community Stadium, Karne Hesketh found the gap and dived. A triumphant roar went up from the crowd. The subs bench, full of the tired Japanese substitutes, went wild. Men and women cried with joy. The Japanese had done it. The greatest shock in the history of rugby union. The team who hadn’t won a World Cup match for 24 years beat the team who had only ever lost three games in the World Cup.
There were other games on day two as well, although every headline went to Japan. France put in a ruthless display to tell everyone that they could challenge for the title by beating Italy 32-10. Ireland thrashed Canada 50-7, with Johnny Sexton putting in a good display. Georgia beat fellow minnows Tonga 17-10.
The day will be remembered as the day when one of the greatest shocks in sport occurred.