Two weeks in, and the Rugby League World Cup is proving a raging success. Sell-out crowds, brilliant rugby, off-field dramas: it’s had it all. Here’s our run-down of some of the highlights so far…
1 – Sonny Bill slips
Two hundred fans turned out on a wet Wednesday in St Helens to watch Sonny Bill Williams train with the Kiwis. All eyes were on the big man – and he started strongly in New Zealand’s opening match against Samoa. Then in the second half he burst through half the opposition to produce this brilliant try… Oh, wait, hang on…
2 – Ryan Hall’s try
England needed a good start to get the World Cup off to a bang. They didn’t get the win against Australia, but they flew out of the blocks for the first 20 minutes and Ryan Hall’s finish, in front of 2.4m viewers on the BBC, gave the World Cup the perfect start. We have lift off!
3 – Sam Mataora goes the wrong way
4 – Jordan Rapana: NO TRY
From the same night in Leigh, another freak incident that you might never see again. Jordan Rapana is a certain try-scorer when he catches the ball two metres out with nobody to beat – but he hadn’t realised his own knee would be such a problem.
5 – Let’s get ready for business
6 – Cooper Cronk’s alternative career
If it all goes wrong for the Kangaroos, at least Cooper Cronk knows there’s an alternative career in basketball waiting around the corner.
7 – Fiji’s hymn
The first video of Fiji singing their team hymn emerged after their warm-up match at Rochdale, but they took things to a whole new level when asked to perform at Rochdale Town Hall. Here they are getting a standing ovation.
9 – Tomahawks flying high
When America’s squad landed, most thought they were here to make up the numbers. Instead they’ve knocked off Cook Islands and Wales in their first two games to book a place in the last eight. Their success even prompted the most bizarre tribute from kids TV stars The Wiggles.
10 – Brilliant crowds
Workington, Avignon, Rochdale, Bristol, Leigh and Huddersfield are just some of the places to have packed the crowds in. Ticket sales have exceeded all expectations and every game seems to be played in front of full stadiums.
11 – Try? No try? Who knows…
Among all the excitement of New Zealand versus Samoa – arguably the most entertaining match of the tournament so far – there was a piece of brilliant drama in the second half. Video referee Thierry Alibert was asked to judge on a Samoan try. Alibert awarded the try, but the person operating the big screen graphics pressed the button for ‘no try’. Twice. Finally, third time lucky, they got the call right….
12 – Battling Bravehearts
Another unfancied team exceeding all expectations, Scotland produced a stirring finish in their first game in stirring fashion with Matty Russell’s second try and Danny Brough’s match-winning goal sealing a 26-24 triumph over Tonga.
13 – Mead miss
Two minutes to go in Papua New Guinea’s opening match with France, and David Mead is given a chance to win it for Adrian Lam’s men with a penalty bang in front of the posts. But the weather made Mead’s task infinitely more difficult and he skewed his effort wide of the uprights. France survived to win 9-8 and Mead looked shattered. The poor lad…
What have we missed? Drop your highlights in the comments box below.