One of the most hotly-contested Rugby Championship seasons served up plenty of tries to savour, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld as he selects the top 15 touchdowns of the tournament.
Skill, athleticism, vision, teamwork and moments of individual brilliance produced pearlers aplenty over the course of the Southern Hemisphere showcase.
Narrowing them down to 15 wasn’t easy, but these were the best of the best:
15: Controversy and Composure
Capitalising after a controversial call by referee Mathieu Raynal, the All Blacks snatched a 39-37 win over the Wallabies with a last-gasp try in Melbourne. Will Jordan was pure class to draw two defenders and float the offload away for Jordie Barrett to break Wallaby hearts but more than anything, it was the composure the Kiwis showed to strike the decisive blow and its significance in them winning the title that lands this try on the list.
14: Boks Finish On A High
The Springboks finished the tournament on a high with this final try against Argentina in Durban, Ox Nche showing he has a good pass on him, Jesse Kriel demanding two defenders’ attention and the outside backs combining sweetly for Kurt-Lee Arendse to convert.
13: Golden Eye
Take a bow, James Slipper. The Wallabies skipper acted as an overgrown playmaker against the Springboks in Adelaide, demonstrating great vision to put Noah Lolesio into a hole with an inside pass, with the young flyhalf floating a cheeky offload to Fraser McReight to finish off.
12: Rubbing Salt in the Wounds
Argentina romped to their largest-ever win (48-17) over the Wallabies in San Juan, scoring 31 of those points by booting the ball behind the shell-shocked visitors. In a relentless mood, the Pumas kicked the Australians while they were down in the final play of the game, Tomas Cubelli sniping from a scrum and chipping ahead with Tomas Albornoz winning the race to dot down.
11: Soaring In Sydney
In one of the most magical moments of the tournament, 19-year-old Canan Moodie celebrated becoming the second-youngest Springbok in the professional era by soaring over Marika Koroibete to pluck Jaden Hendrikse’s pinpoint kick out of the air and race in for a spectacular maiden Test try on debut in Sydney.
10: I Am Unstoppable
Self-belief goes a long way as Lukhanyo Am showed against the All Blacks at Ellis Park. Winging it in a reshuffled Springbok backline brought about by a head knock to Jesse Kriel, Am received a great pass from Willie le Roux, backed himself and beat both wings in a phone booth to score a vital try just before halftime.
Making it look easy against Australia at Marvel Stadium, Beauden Barrett put the ball on a string for Will Jordan to grab out of the air, with the All Blacks speedster stepping Andrew Kellaway and using his pace to sprint in.
8: Top Stuff All-Around
The Kiwis scored a consolation try in their Nelspruit nightmare against the Springboks in what was a top-shelf passage of play by both teams – Caleb Clarke’s powerful break, Damian Willemse someone reeling the monster wing in and Shannon Frizell beating three determined cover defenders to slam the ball down in the corner.
7: Ultimate Ankle Breaker
The tournament’s most wicked piece of ankle-breaking didn’t come from a nippy backline player but rather Juan Martin Gonzalez, the Pumas flanker’s surprisingly fancy footwork seeing Springbok fullback Willie le Roux crash into a heap and Gonzalez dot down in Durban.
6: Runaway Freight Train
Enterprise – All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett’s crosskick – and hard work – regaining possession with strong counter-rucking – created a chance and Samisoni Taukei’aho took it upon himself to score with a rampaging run against Australia in Melbourne.
5: Hustle And Flow
Doubling up after breaking a tackle and offloading to Steven Kitshoff against Australia in Sydney, Siya Kolisi dove onto a loose ball and kept play alive. The men in green and gold maximised their captain’s hustle, finding fantastic synergy with Jasper Wiese’s offload particularly pivotal as Franco Mostert galloped over in the corner.
4: Rolling Thunder
Richie Mo’unga got the ball rolling for this typically awesome All Blacks try against Argentina in Hamilton with a snap grubber. Will Jordan’s speed saw him pocket the pill where after good hands saw Rieko Ioane beautifully swerve past Emiliano Boffelli and pull in Juan Cruz Mallia before popping the ball to Caleb Clarke, who had the pace to finish.
3: Magic in Mbombela
Kurt-Lee Arendse’s maiden Test try was a special one. Lethal in the air in the tournament-opener at Mbombela Stadium, the Springbok pocket rocket created the opportunity by forcing Beauden Barrett to spill Handre Pollard’s pinpoint up-and-under. Lukhanyo Am’s awareness was off the charts as he grabbed the rebound and produced a magical offload to put Arendse away.
2: Pumas Pounce From Deep
Juan Cruz Mallia created this cracking counter-attacking try for Argentina in their opening encounter against Australia in Mendoza. Fielding a kick inside his 22, the Pumas fullback opted to run, easily stepped one defender and took out three others with a long ball over the top to Pablo Matera, who managed the situation perfectly to put Juan Martin Gonzalez in.
1: Black Magic
Leave it to the All Blacks to score a 95-metre try from a scrum. Ruthless as they put the Pumas to the sword in Hamilton, Will Jordan changed direction and linked up with Rieko Ioane, who exploded off the mark, stepped Tomas Cubelli and ate up 55 metres before being brought down. A couple of quick phases of sublime interplay later, David Havili put Sam Cane into a gap and the All Blacks captain gave the final pass to Jordie Barrett.