OPINION: It's been another year of the spectacular, the sublime and the ridiculous. Trevor McKewen guides us through the Top 20 Jaw-Dropping Moments of New Zealand sport.
1: ALL BLACKS SCORE THE TRY FROM THE END-OF-THE-EARTH
The exclamation mark on a stunning unbeaten season. There was almost two minutes of non-stop play, 10 breakdowns, 24 passes, 13 players handling the ball and not one mistake in an after-the-bell movement that swept 85 metres before Ryan Crotty scored a try that devastated Ireland, cost them a first ever victory over NZ and sent All Blacks fans into a frenzy. Some have since described the touchdown as the greatest try in All Blacks history.
2: TEAM NEW ZEALAND ALMOST CAPSIZES
A nation held its collective breath on September 14 when Team NZ's giant cat pitch-forked during race eight of the final against Oracle. Somehow the boat managed to stay upright and a calamity was averted. For five terrifying seconds, it looked like the Cup campaign would end in tears. Oh, that's right, it did!
3: ALL BLACKS DEFY BOKS AT ELLIS PARK
A test for the ages. This was the toughest mental and physical test the All Blacks have faced since the 2011 World Cup final. A traditional graveyard for All Blacks teams, the match looked to have swung the Boks' way midway through the second half before Richie McCaw and Kieran Read settled the ship in a courageous display.
4: THE ALMIGHTY JOHNSON STRIKES
Shaun Johnson's match-winning try against England after the bell in the World Cup league semis was a touchdown for the ages. Sadly, it was a shot fired too early with Johnson and his team-mates strangely absent in a one-sided final against Australia that undid all the previous good work achieved by the Kiwis.
5: IT'S A BREAKERS 'THREE-PEAT'
Bossing the Aussies in their own competition. Is there a better feeling? The Breakers did it again with a third straight Aussie NBL title in April, defeating arch rivals the Perth Wildcats and sending coach Andre Lemanis on his way to the Aussie national coaching job in style.
6: LYDIA KO WINS HER FIRST EVENT SINCE TURNING PRO
Ko's unique method of announcing her decision to turn pro - a jazzy viral video with All Black Israel Dagg - was eye-catching enough. But then two weeks later she nailed her first win as a pro, taking the bizarrely named Swinging Skirts tournament and beating the world No 1 along the way.
7: BOULT'S HUGE HAUL
Nine wickets in one day in a test match. Come on down Trent Boult. It was the singular individual performance of the year from a Black Cap, coming in a year that was hardly a vintage one for New Zealand cricket.
8: DEMOLITION TIME
Joseph Parker's ruthless disposal of Francois Botha showed he may just be the real deal. OK, Botha is about 90 and washed up but he still made Sonny Bill Williams look silly. Parker gave us the best display of fistic power we have seen in NZ since David Tua produced the best round in years against Shane Cameron.
9: RANFURLY SHIELD GOES WALKABOUT
The coveted Log of Wood moved three times this winter, starting the fairytale with Otago who promptly handed it on to Hawke's Bay who just as quickly passed it over to Tana Umaga's Counties for the summer. But the moment we remember most was Ihaia West's incredible 40m solo try to anchor Hawke's Bay's first Shield victory in 44 years.
10: BRUTALITY IN BRISSIE
UFC president Dana White described it as the best heavyweight bout in the organisation's history. Few would disagree. Kiwi Mark Hunt's brutal fight in Brisbane this month against the Brazilian Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva was gory, frightening, intimidating - and compulsive viewing. It was a draw, which somehow seemed fitting.
11: SBW'S WORLD CUP U-TURN
Is there a more frustrating man in New Zealand sport? SBW reserves the right to make his decisions when they suit him. Sounds fair enough. But in the case of Tohu Harris, the Storm player who had to make way for Williams after he changed his mind, it was a slap in the face. It also offended most New Zealanders' sense of fair play.
12: RICKI'S RANT
It would be great if football's only mention in this list was for an epic Rory Fallon style matchwinner that got us to Brazil next year but sadly the most memorable round-ball incident of 2013 was All Whites coach Ricki Herbert's meltdown at the press conference after Mexico hammered us 5-1 in Mexico City. Herbert played the blame game, levelling accusations at everybody but himself in a display that cost him many of the admirers he previously had.
13: ADAMS MAKES THE CUT
Steve Adams has shown there is a future other than rugby for very tall athletic men from our shores. Kiwis, who previously knew little about basketball, thronged around TVs to see where Adams would end up in the first round of the NBA draft. The answer was 12th and now the Oklahoma City Thunder have four million new fans.
14: WHISTLIN' DIXON
It was the motorsport comeback of the year. Seemingly out of the race for the IndyCar title halfway through the season, the Manurewa Marvel won two big races in Canada before hunting down leader Helio Castroneves in the remaining races and sealing his third IndyCar title and moving into a position where he is challenging the revered Unser family as the "winningest" driver.
15: TWO METRE PETER AND RUDS JUNIOR
Harsh critics might suggest Peter Fulton has never done anything jaw-dropping but his two test hundreds against England in one test at Eden Park during the summer was an almighty feat. So, too, was Hamish Rutherford's big century on his test debut.
16: ROWING'S INVINCIBLES' SWEET 16
Not content to rest on their London Olympics laurels, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond were at it again this year. In April, they set a new world record when the pair won gold at the world champs in Korea, giving them 16 consecutive titles at Olympic, world championship and World Cup level. The pair haven't lost since teaming up in 2009, seeing off crews from 25 different countries over 44 races.
17: VAL SMASHES THEM
Anything the rowing boys can do, Val Adams can match. Adams defended her world shot put title in Moscow and cleaned up the Diamond League in Europe for the third year in a row. There's just no stopping her.
18: CHIEFS DO IT AGAIN
No SBW this time but it didn't matter as Liam Messam stood up and Dave Rennie proved he is an All Blacks coach-in-waiting as the boring Brumbies were run down at the death in a gripping final in Hamilton.
19: A HORSE ON DRUGS
We Kiwis take it for granted we are good at riding horses, so success in the equestrian world is no surprise to us. Horses on drugs are though. So that's why we all took notice when Jock Paget's horse Clifton Promise tested positive for a banned sedative after he won the prestigious Burghley Horse Trials in September. No New Zealand horse has ever turned a positive in an FEI event. The process is ongoing but Paget potentially faces a lengthy competition ban.
20: WARRIORS V BRONCOS BARNSTORMER
This match got all the headlines for Russell Packer taking a pre-kickoff leak on Lang Park. Shame on you Rusty 'cos it should have been all about how brilliantly the Warriors played in smashing the Brisbane Broncos 56-12. The match kicked off a five-game winning streak that featured some of the best games in either code this year.
- Sunday Star Times
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