By The Spotter
Every now and again, someone, somewhere in sport will do something just a bit out of the ordinary. Something that us mere mortals reminisce over years or decades later.
This is a completely random homage to some of those in top-level Rugby Union or League who could run (or kick) faster or stronger; those that could plough through opponents more damagingly than we ever would have imagined, or who we thought could be capable of greatness and suddenly there it was. Disclaimer: I have no Welsh background, ancestry etc even though two from Wales feature. Two props made it. And two players called Frank. All an absolute coincidence. Promise.
1975: Graham Price (Wales) vs France, Parc-de-Princes, Five Nations: Who’d have guessed that a front row fatty from the seventies could have had so much toe? And it was his first test match, for good measure.
That previous feat wasn’t some sort of mirage, either. Two years later, Price almost chased down an All Black winger who had only forty-five metres to go to reach the posts, and had at least a five-metre start on him (albeit Grant Batty’s knee was a bit stuffed by then). It’s also a good excuse to once again replay one of the most iconic tries in the Black jersey.
1983: Frank Tinitiella (Otahuhu) vs Randwick, Carlaw Park, Tusk Cup Rugby League Grand Final: If ever there was a 15 seconds of sporting fame, this was surely it. No-one ever heard much from ‘Frank Tank’ again after this wonder score. Randwick wished they had never heard of him. One for the ages.
1986: Paul Thorburn (Wales) vs Scotland, Cardiff Arms Park, Five Nations: The Welsh fullback placed the ball about 13-14 metres in from the touchline and from a couple of metres behind his OWN team’s 10-metre mark- a total distance of around 67 metres. Then with a run-up similar in length to a medium-pace bowler in cricket, he thumped the Mitre ball, which just kept going…and going, until dropping over inches inside the left-hand upright for a penalty goal and three points (it deserved four). All done with no wussy kicking tee. Without aerodynamic pinky-orangy coloured boots. Without a strong following breeze. And on a slightly churned up pitch. Incredible.
1997: Frank Bunce (NZ) vs South Africa, Ellis Park, Tri-Nations: The Springboks and their crowd were definitely up for tasting a bit of NZ blood after a first-ever series loss on home soil to the All Blacks the year before. And this match was going the home team’s way until Bunce scored the second of his two wondrous tries in the match. The Boks would have to wait until 1998 for their revenge. (The try in question is at 10’16 on the vid. In fact, his first in the match is almost as good).
2016: Lima Sopo’aga (Highlanders) vs Hurricanes, Westpac Stadium, Super Rugby: It almost looked like a dare or bet was carried out. Because what Sopo’aga did was so utterly audacious, a bet seemed the only logical reason. But the ‘landers’ first-five is so naturally talented that it was more likely a planned move off the training pitch or just a completely spontaneous act. It was so brilliantly executed in this match that it almost led to a try. And Sopo’aga will be missed. Of that there is no doubt. How unlucky has he been to have been at his peak years at precisely the same time as Beauden Barrett? In another era it was Frano Botica having his path blocked by Grant Fox.
And finally, a quick look at the other side of the coin…
Rest in peace, Tommy Hadfield. An all-time great of NZ Rugby League.
Have a happy and safe weekend.