Phil Gifford: An ABs touchdown for the ages

PHIL GIFFORD
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2013
Ryan Crotty
Getty Images
GAME BREAKER: All Blacks replacement and Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty celebrates his match-levelling try against Ireland in Dublin.

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Ryan Crotty's try didn't only win the test with Ireland. It's the best All Black try of all time.

Before every rugby misery guts in the country chokes on their cornflakes, please consider my list of what makes a great test try.

First, sheer quality, the tactical and technical skills involved. Second, the drama of when it was scored, and how important it was to the game. And third, how it will stand in the history of the All Blacks.

Technically the Crotty try is extraordinary. Almost two minutes of non-stop play, 10 breakdowns, 24 passes, 13 players handling, and not one mistake. Drama? The tap kick by Aaron Smith that started it all was taken with 15 seconds left on the clock, and historically it cemented the 2013 All Blacks as the first professional test team in the world to go through a season unbeaten.

What other All Black tries make up my top 10? Peter Jones 1956, against South Africa at Eden Park: Jones kicks the ball ahead after a lineout at halfway, and runs 30 metres untouched to score. When he crosses the line he throws one hand up. "I had a sudden strange fear that this would be like a nightmare and the referee mightn't have seen it, or he might have dropped dead away down the field." The All Blacks win 11-5, and have their first series win over South Africa.

Israel Dagg 2010, against South Africa at Soweto: The last 35 seconds of Jon Smit's 100th test in front of 94,033 spectators, and Israel Dagg dances to a match winning try, then almost blows it by showboating over the deadball line. "It was a bit close," Dagg would admit. "I was celebrating and yahooing, I didn't even know I was doing it." The All Blacks win 27-22, and take the Tri-Nations.

Jonah Lomu 2000, against Australia in Sydney: In the 78th minute, the All Blacks down 35-34, 109,874 people in the crowd going nuts, and Taine Randell basketballs a pass to Lomu. "Basically I just pinned my ears back to get to the line as soon as possible," says Lomu. The All Blacks win 39-35. Aussie captain John Eales says it's the best test he's ever played in.

Maurice Brownlie 1925, against England at Twickenham: His brother Cyril is ordered off after seven minutes, and when Maurice takes the ball 10 minutes into the second half he smashes his way to the line through four attempted tackles. "I wouldn't have passed the ball," he later told team-mates, "for a thousand pounds." The All Blacks win 17-11.

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John Kirwan 1987, against Italy, at Eden Park: Halfway through the second half Kirwan runs 80 metres, beating six tacklers for the try of the tournament. "I just know that I got the ball from Foxy," says Kirwan, "and the next thing I can recall was being down at the other end, feeling really tired." It's the spark that lights the World Cup fuse. New Zealand win 70-6.

Jonah Lomu 1995, against England, in Cape Town: Two minutes into the semi-final. In Lomu's words: "Stumbling. Keep your balance Jonah. Look up. Mike Catt. Get your knee up. Bang, into him. Over him, through him. Sorry Mike." In Keith Quinn's words: "Oh, oh, oh, Lomu." The All Blacks win 45-29.

Andy Dalton 1978, against Ireland in Dublin: A last-gasp dash at the tryline at the front of a lineout for a 10-6 win. Without it there would have been no 78 Grand Slam.

Don McKay 1961, against France at Eden Park: The first All Black test for Des Connor, Neil Wolfe and McKay, and with their first touch of the ball they combine for a try. "My wife was on the terraces," says McKay, "and when everyone jumped up they all ended flat on their backs."

Bob Deans 1905, against Wales in Cardiff: But the bloody referee didn't award it. The All Blacks lost 3-0.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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