The most unforgettable moments of the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Tom HomewoodAssistant Producer

South Africa overpowered England to lift the Rugby World Cup trophy for a record equalling, history making, third time in Japan on Saturday.

After 44 days of competition and 45 fiercely contested matches, the 2019 World Cup came to an end with the Springboks first ever black captain lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama.

It was the first tournament to be hosted in Asia which featured unbelievable performances from the host nation, moments of individual genius, a devastating typhoon and worthy winners in South Africa.

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Here are some of the most unforgettable moments from the ‘greatest’ Rugby World Cup ever.

READ MORE: South Africa win third World Cup as England fall short in bruising battle

Kamaishi

In a city that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami, we witnessed one of the greatest games of the tournament.

Uruguay, who had only won two previous matches at the World Cup, stunned the crowd with an impressive 30-27 win over Fiji.

Uruguay players and staff celebrate their win in Kamaishi (Photo by Warren Little - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)
Uruguay players and staff celebrate their win in Kamaishi (Photo by Warren Little - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The final whistle sparked tears of joy among the Uruguayan’s followed by huge celebrations with the crowd and local residence.

Japan pays its respects

For the first time in Rugby World history, matches were called off when Typhoon Hagibis devastated the country, resulting in at least 80 deaths.

After one of the biggest and most powerful storms Japan has seen in years hit Tokyo on October 12, three games were called off.

Volunteers and tournament staff worked throughout the night to make sure the crunch match between Japan and Scotland could go ahead in Yokohama the next day.

Japan's players observe a moment of silence for victims of typhoon Hagibis (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
Japan's players observe a moment of silence for victims of typhoon Hagibis (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

An impeccable minute's silence and haunting rendition of the Japanese national anthem in tribute to all those affected preceded an historic 28-21 victory that sent Japan through to the quarter-finals for the first time.

Canada's final game of the tournament was one of those that was cancelled due to the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis, and the players took to the streets to lend a helping hand in the clean-up operation.

The Canadian players were seen shovelling mud, carrying furniture and clearing debris after the storm passed through.

The All Blacks at their best

There were 285 tries scored in Japan but TJ Perenara’s outrageous finish following Brad Weber’s no look pass was the best of the bunch.

TJ Perenara finishing off an unbelievable try (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
TJ Perenara finishing off an unbelievable try (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Perenara was tackled after making his was into Namibia’s half, but the All Blacks kept the ball alive. Weber, had the crowd in awe with his outrageous behind the back pass to pick out the Kiwi captain once again.

He set off down the line with the ball under one arm and despite two tackles coming in, managed to stay in touch and get the ball down in time as far in the corner, as in the corner can be.

England give New Zealand the V

How to respond to the All Blacks' Haka has been a conundrum for many teams. England's tactic ahead of their semi-final was a V formation, the brainchild of head coach Eddie Jones.

Mako Vunipola said: "We wanted to be respectful but we wanted to also make sure that they understood that we would be ready for the fight."

England line up in a V to watch New Zealand perform the haka (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
England line up in a V to watch New Zealand perform the haka (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)

READ MORE: England hit with £2000 fine after response to New Zealand's haka in Rugby World Cup semi-final

It worked perfectly, with Manu Tuilagi's second-minute try setting the stage for a famous 19-7 victory.

England were eventually fined £2,000 for crossing the halfway during New Zealand’s performance.

Kolisi unites a nation

Spingbok skipper Siya Kolisi dedicated his team's stunning World Cup triumph to the South African nation.

Kolisi, South Africa's first black rugby captain, led from the front as they landed a third world title following victories in 1995 and 2007.

"Since I have been alive I have never seen South Africa like this," he said.

Siya Kolisi with his World Cup winners medal (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)
Siya Kolisi with his World Cup winners medal (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

READ MORE: Why do southern hemisphere teams dominate Rugby World Cup?

"With all the challenges we have, the coach (Rassie Erasmus) said to us that we are not playing for ourselves any more, we are playing for the people back home, and that is what we wanted to do today.

"We appreciate all the support - people in the taverns, in the shebeens, farms, homeless people and people in the rural areas.

"Thank you so much, we appreciate the support. We love you South Africa and we can achieve anything if we work together as one."

The ‘greatest’ World Cup ever

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has hailed Japan 2019 as "probably the greatest" Rugby World Cup in history.

"Japan 2019 will be remembered as probably the greatest Rugby World Cup," said Beaumont, speaking at the tournament's closing press conference in Tokyo.

"It has certainly been the most ground-breaking in terms of bringing the game to new audiences and attracting new fans to the sport.

Kolisi lifts the trophy with his team mates (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Kolisi lifts the trophy with his team mates (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

"It has been amazing what we've experienced over the last six weeks, culminating in an outstanding final.”

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper added: "Is this the greatest World Cup ever? Certainly the statistics would say that it is.

"More than 1.7 billion social media views - a world record television audience, 99 per cent stadium attendance, 1.2 million in the fan zones and possibly the largest digital sports event of 2019."

And from a playing perspective, former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip concurs, and suggests breaking the mould of rugby host nations is a pattern that should be followed.

“If you think about how you grow this game of rugby, worldwide, it was a brave move for them to come to Japan. But they've broken all sorts TV records in Japan alone and then opened up to a brand new market, it’s never been held in Asia.

They should consider doing more of this and getting teams like Japan build up for it. You can see what happens, they’re a tier two nation but they got into the final eight.It’d be really excited if they did something similar in North America or South America for the 2027or beyond.”

Jamie Heaslip was talking on behalf of HEINEKEN.

HEINEKEN is a Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, and HEINEKEN’s relationship with World Rugby is one of the most recognisable and longest-standing partnerships in sport.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 gives fans around the world an opportunity to engage with the tournament through Heineken’s ‘Universal Language of Rugby’ campaign. #HeinkenRugby

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