Top 5 Matches of World Cup Pool Stages

Date published: October 13 2015

This World Cup will surely go down as one of, if not the greatest World Cup in the history of the sport after an enthralling pool phase which had everything.

There have been great wins, shocks, dramatic comebacks and high-scoring contests at this World Cup so far, and more are expected as we enter the quarter-final phase of the competition.

However, there were some games in the group phase which were simply unforgettable and will be remembered and watched again for years to come.

Here are our five favourite matches from the pool stages:

5. New Zealand 26-16 Argentina, Pool C, Wembley Stadium, London

On the opening Sunday defending champions New Zealand were given a real scare by Argentina in front of a then record crowd at Wembley. The unthinkable happened in the first half when Richie McCaw was sin-binned for a trip, and he was soon joined by Conrad Smith. The Pumas arguably should have been further clear than 13-12 at the break after dominating the opening 40 minuntes and in the final half-hour the All Blacks showed why they are the best in the world. Tries from Aaron Smith and Sam Cane, as well as a superb cameo display from Sonny Bill Williams carried them home.

4. Wales 28-25 England, Pool A, Twickenham, London

Leading 22-12 with half an hour to go, England must have felt they had one foot in the quarter-finals. Injury-plaqued Wales though had other ideas. A superb kicking display from Dan Biggar, who booted 23 points, and a late Gareth Davies' try swung the game in their favour. The hosts, who turned down a late shot at goal for the draw, never recovered and exited the tournament after losing to Australia – a result which put the Welsh through.

3. Australia 15-6 Wales, Pool A, Twickenham, London

Although both teams had already made the quarter-finals, they played out an intense match which will be best remembered for some extraordinary Aussie defence. With two players in the sin bin for 10 second-half minutes and their try-line under siege, 13-man Australia produced an unbelievable defensive effort – which Welsh defence coach Shaun Edwards himself would have been proud of – to keep Wales out. Wales won't have many better chances to end their Wallaby hoodoo.

2. Scotland 36-33 Samoa, Pool B, St. James Park, Newcastle

Samoa had been a shadow of themselves in their first three games but burst into life against Scotland, who needed a win to reach the last eight. Somehow the Scots trailed by just three points at the break, despite Samoa scoring tries for fun, and it proved crucial. In the second half Samoa's indiscipline and a captain's display from Greg Laidlaw, with 26 points, was just enough for Scotland to see off the Pacific Islanders and earn a quarter-final meeting with Australia.

1. Japan 34-32 South Africa, Pool B, Brighton Community Stadium, Brighton

Unfancied Japan, who had only won once before at a World Cup, all the way back in 1991 against minnows Zimbabwe, shocked two-time champions South Africa and the world with a stunning performance in their opening pool match. An 84th-minute Karne Hesketh try earned the Brave Blossoms a famous and very much deserved victory which will not only go down as the biggest upset in this World Cup, but undoubtedly the greatest World Cup upset of all time!

By Aron Hegarty