Capuozzo’s moment of magic
Italy arrived in Cardiff on the back of 36 consecutive defeats in the Six Nations and though Wales had hardly had a championship to remember – a disappointing defence of their title – given the Azzurri’s tendency to get worse as the tournament goes on they were given little hope of breaking their seven-year duck. They were heading for another gallant defeat when Josh Adams went over after 68 minutes, but with less than two minutes to go Edoardo Padovani gathered Kieran Hardy’s overhit box-kick and passed inside to Ange Capuozzo. The full-back, then 22, cemented his burgeoning reputation with a dazzling run, through Adams, then twisted Hardy inside out and delivered the pass to Padovani to score. Paolo Garbisi nailed the conversion to seal a magnificent victory. Italy built on it by defeating Australia this autumn, adding further intrigue to next year’s tournament, with a home match against France kicking off their campaign.
Raynal’s whistle does the talking
Recent history suggests there is nothing unusual about New Zealand romping clear of Australia in the third quarter but, as was shown throughout the year, the All Blacks are susceptible to late rallies and so it was in Melbourne with a Nic White penalty edging the Wallabies, who had been 18 points down, ahead. The All Blacks shifted into another gear and pressed for the winning score but a penalty for Australia near their own line with around 90 seconds to play seemed to be decisive. That was until the referee, Mathieu Raynal, who had grown increasingly fed up throughout the match, pinged Bernard Foley for time-wasting and awarded New Zealand a scrum from which Jordie Barrett scored the matchwinning try. To some Raynal – who has consistently stood by his decision – was right to call up Foley, to others it was a dangerous precedent and questionable timing considering there are plenty of occasions calls like that could be made in most matches. World Rugby’s recent directives designed to speed up the game suggest we will see more of it in the buildup to – and during – next year’s World Cup. That doesn’t make it any easier for the Wallabies to stomach, however.
A shootout for the ages
As much as the Champions Cup is floundering at the moment, it is worth bearing in mind that last season’s competition looked, for long spells, unlikely to be completed due to Covid, before springing into life in a captivating knockout phase. None more so than Toulouse’s trip to Dublin to face Munster in the quarter-finals and a first penalty shootout since 2009. The 80-minute contest wasn’t bad in its own right but the tension went up several notches in a scoreless period of extra time before the thrilling denouement. They are so rare that broadcasters and spectators alike were not entirely sure of the format – indeed Romain Ntamack celebrated ahead of schedule when scoring Toulouse’s third kick – but it was one of those moments that captured…
Read More: Sport’s most memorable moments of 2022 – No 4: Rugby union | Rugby union 2022-12-29 21:54:00