1987 THE PERFECT BEGINNING
The first World Cup felt more like a giant frat party than a serious business of finding the best. It was maybe only by the semifinals that most people realised the point.
That festival feel added to the charm, though and it was a tournament that was short, sharp and compelling in the end. If there was a fault, splitting the hosting across both New Zealand and Australia created, at times, a major disconnect. There was one vibe in New Zealand and a totally different one across the Tasman.
STAR OF THE TOURNAMENT
A few candidates for this – mostly All Blacks. John Kirwan was impressive as was John Gallagher but the man everyone talked about for weeks on end was a certain Michael Jones.
The All Black openside played with an athleticism and intensity that no one had ever seen before. He was so smooth across the turf, so tough in the contact and so good with ball in hand.
HOW IT PLAYED OUT
It was obvious from the first games that New Zealand, Australia, France, Scotland [who would have thought?] and Wales were a cut above everyone else. England really did look like they had come for a boozy end of season tour and Ireland were much the same.
By the end of the pool rounds, the smart money was on the All Blacks playing the Wallabies in the final – until that was, the French [who else?] played a miracle semifinal to snatch a victory at the death with a miracle try. The final was a touch one-sided and reflected that the All Blacks were a class above everyone else. They were fitter, faster, more organised and more capable – reiterated by the fact the next test they lost was in 1990.
GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT
Scotland played out a classic 20-20 draw with France in the pool round that had everything. But for sheer drama, it was the semifinal between the French and Wallabies that defined the tournament. The French just wouldn’t give up – kept coming back and then, as only they can, mounted an attack from their own territory in the last minute which ended up with them scoring a famous try in the corner.
Serge Blanco, on his knees looking to the heavens after scoring the last minute try to put France into the final.
John Kirwan’s incredible solo try against Italy where he took the ball from the kick-off and basically ran through the entire team.
Buck Shelford knocking Welsh lock Huw Richards unconscious and then somehow getting away with it. Even better – Richards was sent off when he came to.
Welsh fullback Paul Thorburn’s last minute touchline conversion to beat Australia in the third-fourth place playoff game.
FORM HORSE: John Kirwan was in the form of his career.
Kirw an couldn’t stop scoring.
Wales were blown away.
David Kirk takes it to the Fijians.
Grant Fox lands another goal.