Sun, Jan 03, 2016 - Page 19 News List

Japan’s Rugby World Cup upset and Serena’s stumble head 2015 shocks

AFP, PARIS

Japan’s Karne Hesketh, right, scores the winning try of their Rugby World Cup pool game against South Africa at the Brighton Community Stadium in England on Sept. 1 last year.

Photo: Reuters

Agence France-Presse Sports looks back on some of the biggest sporting shocks of last year, with rugby union and tennis featuring.

JAPAN, SOUTH AFRICA

Japan caused the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history as they stunned two-time former champions South Africa 34-32 in their opening pool match in Brighton.

The Brave Blossoms had won just one of their 24 previous matches in the competition, but the Asian champions, under the stewardship of Eddie Jones, signaled their intent early with captain Michael Leitch crossing to put the underdogs 10-7 up.

However, the experienced Springboks, whose starting 15 featured a combined 851 caps, went in with the half-time lead and appeared to have ended the plucky Japan challenge when Adriaan Strauss ploughed over to make it 29-22.

However, Japan fullback Ayumu Goromaru converted his own try to level the scores with 10 minutes to play. The Springboks responded with Handre Polland slotting over a penalty to seemingly put them back on top for good.

There was one final dramatic twist though as Japan, opting for a scrum rather than kicking a penalty as time expired, shifted play across the width of the field before finding replacement wing Karne Hesketh, who touched down in the corner to seal an incredible victory.

VINCI, SERENA

Serena Williams looked almost certain to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988, and just sixth player overall, to complete a calendar Grand Slam after reaching the semi-finals of the US Open.

With Flavia Pennetta then dumping out second seed Simona Halep in the first semi, the odds on the American landing a historic title shortened further. Riding a 26-match win streak at Flushing Meadows, the world No. 1 was overwhelmingly expected to sweep aside unseeded Roberta Vinci, the veteran Italian more renowned for her doubles success, and set up a showdown with eventual champion Pennetta, against whom Williams owned a 7-0 career edge.

Instead her bid was crushed in stunning fashion as the 32-year-old Vinci rallied from a set down to claim a sensational 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 triumph, beating Williams for the first time to set up the first all-Italian women’s Grand Slam final in the Open era.

FURY, KLITSCHKO

British boxer Tyson Fury registered one of the sport’s biggest upsets by outpointing longstanding heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in Duesseldorf, Germany, to end the Ukrainian’s nine-year reign.

Manchester-born Fury, 27, handed Klitschko his first loss since 2004 after winning a unanimous points decision 115-112, 115-112, 116-111 as the self-styled “Gypsy King” landed the WBA, IBF and WBO world title belts.

Fury, whose biggest previous win was against fellow Briton Dereck Chisora, was undeterred by the step up in class and backed up his pre-fight promises by confounding his decorated rival as well as the doubters with a skilful, measured performance.

Fury likened his “masterclass” performance to a “mongoose in a cobra’s nest, taking all the eggs home” in his first press conference as world heavyweight king.

EURO 2016

Semi-finalists at the 2014 Soccer World Cup, the Netherlands were expected to routinely qualify for the expanded 24-team European Championship finals and perhaps even contend for the title.

Placed alongside the likes of Czech Republic, Turkey and Iceland, their Group A draw was not overly complicated, but an opening defeat in Prague signaled the start of a disastrous campaign.

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