The explosions caused by Northern and Southern Hemisphere sides colliding in the Autumn Nations Series created tries that were out of this world, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The 2022 Test season came to a thrilling conclusion at the weekend with a depleted Australian side staging an epic comeback to stun Wales 39-34 in Cardiff and South Africa smashing England 27-13 to emphatically end an eight-year drought at Twickenham.
Twenty-one Tests made up the Autumn Nations Series and provided some historic highs and unforgettable tries. With options aplenty, it was no easy feat, but here are my 15 finest five-pointers of the end-of-year internationals:
15: One For The Record Books
Seven months removed from their Six Nations Grand Slam triumph, a rusty but composed France found a way to sidestep defeat to the Wallabies, Damian Penaud running onto Matthieu Jalibert’s looping pass and doing his best Cheslin Kolbe impression by stepping Tom Wright and handing off Jock Campbell to snatch victory and secure a record 11th straight win for Les Bleus.
14: Miracle Men
Georgia shocked the world when they clinched a first-ever win over Wales in Cardiff. Fittingly, the try that helped them make history was a memorable one as Tedo Abzhandadze lobbed a crosskick into the hands of an unmarked Alexander Todua to touch down.
13: Brave Blossoms Stand Up
Japan didn’t fire many shots in the Autumn Nations Series but they gave their fans something to cheer about in their losing effort against France, Ryohei Yamanaka slicing through and linking back up with the man who’d put him into the gap, Naoto Saito, with the scrumhalf streaking in.
12: Incredible Intervention
Darcy Graham injected himself into the action and scored one of the best intercept tries you’ll ever see against the All Blacks. The Scottish speedster snatched David Havili’s pass with one hand, had just enough acceleration to evade Caleb Clark, and beat Jordie Barrett with a beautiful step.
11: Dynamic Duo
Springbok supporters were in their element when they got to see Manie Libbok and Willie le Roux work the floor together against the Azzurri. The prolific playmakers were at the heart of this long-range, multi-phase team try rounded off by Kurt-Lee Arendse, as EK Rugby Analysis brilliantly broke down on Twitter.
10: Fijian Flair
The results didn’t go their way but Fiji nevertheless made their presence felt in the Autumn Nations Series with tries like the one Simione Kuruvoli scored against Ireland. It was vintage Fijian flair with great touches by Waisea Nayacalevu and Jiuta Wainiqolo putting Kuruvoli away.
The insights provided by Sage provide the plot for France’s sizzler against Japan, which included a stellar offload by Matthieu Jalibert, a top tackle by Jack Cornelsen, and slick handling for Damian Penaud to score as Les Bleus ended the year with a perfect record.
8: Air Kolbe
None other than Cheslin Kolbe produced the best individual try in the year-end international window when he took a flight to pluck a Springbok restart out of the air and race away in a flash at a stunned Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
7: Special Delivery
Springbok super-sub Manie Libbok thrilled in just his second Test against Italy, the flair-filled flyhalf’s magical cameo including him uncorking the pass of the year to set Cobus Reinach’s try in motion, with Kurt-Lee Arendse also doing well to cut inside and feed the replacement scrumhalf.
6: Gold Smith
Freddie Steward was on fire against Japan and sparked this gem with a kick-return near his 22. The England fullback waltzed past the first defender and flipped the ball to Jack van Poortvliet as he sucked in two more. The scrumhalf linked up with Joe Cokanasiga, who showed excellent presence of mind after being tackled to pop the ball to Marcus Smith to dive over in the corner.
5: Flow State
Italy were as fluid as water on attack against Australia in Florence, washing them away with this sweeping play rounded off by World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Ange Capuozzo that set them on their way to their first-ever win over the Wallabies.
4: Double Cross
Whoever play New Zealand are never safe as the All Blacks showed against England at Twickenham, Beauden Barrett chipping a crosskick into the clutches of Caleb Clarke who had the wherewithal to immediately pop the ball to Rieko Ioane who scorched his way over the try line.
3: White Walkers
Like something out of Game of Thrones, England came back from the dead to secure a dramatic draw against the All Blacks. This phenomenal try supercharged the fightback with Jordan Ribbans breaking the line and floating an audacious offload wide and Freddie Steward finishing off a few quick phases later.
2: Smooth As Silk
The Azzurri were ruthless and on absolute fire against Samoa in Padua, scoring this pearl straight from a restart. Perfectly in sync, the Italians were simply unstoppable with Pierre Bruno providing the finishing touch.
1: Wallabies Wizardry
Their trip to Paris may have ended in heartbreak, but the Wallabies left having scored a wonder try that held up as the best of the Autumn Nations Series as exquisite awareness, handling, pace, and support play saw Lalakai Foketi round off a 95-metre stunner.