With Finn Russell cheekily telling Gloucester fans to shush as his Bath side pulled away to a second-half comeback win at the weekend, what were five other great moments of rugby sh*thousery?
Two Cents Rugby rolls back the clock for these five incidents, and there’s some classic moments to re-live.
“Four more years” – George Gregan at Rugby World Cup 2003
As a New Zealander, this one still burns. The semi-final between the All Blacks and Wallabies saw the former go in as favourites as they were on an 11-game unbeaten run and had beaten Australia twice in 2003, including a 50-21 victory in Australia and taking back the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand a month later.
However, in the semi-final the All Blacks were left chasing the game. Starting scrum-half Justin Marshall had gone off with a knock to the ribs after 47 minutes, and replacement Byron Kelleher replaced him.
At 72 minutes and with the Aussies 12 points ahead, Kelleher knocked the ball on at the base of a ruck, to which Gregan said the famous words “Four more years boys”, which was caught clearly on camera.
It was a brutal but totally accurate line from the half-back and Gregan would later go on to say that the sledge was only directed at Kelleher, who Gregan described “in your face” and “annoying”, not entirely unique when describing half-backs.
“Threw his hands in the air” – Andrew Merhtens in Super Rugby 1999
Back in the glory days of Super Rugby, South African-born Merhtens giving the fingers to the crowd at Loftus was a classic moment.
With a few weeks left in the season, the Crusaders were trying to keep their play-off chances alive against the Bulls in South Africa. The Crusaders scored a late try, which gave Merhtens the chance to take the lead, but he missed the conversion. The celebration of the crowd at the miss would have been one of the loudest of the game.
But with Franco Smith kicking out on the full for the Bulls, the Crusaders had one last chance. This time, Merhtens didn’t miss. A drop-goal before full-time put the Crusaders 30-28 up, with Merhtens running back to his own half flipping the bird to the home fans who had not long earlier been cheering his miss from the tee.
Commentator Hugh Bladen gracefully described the action by saying he “threw his hands in the air”.
The Crusaders ended up holding on to the lead and securing the final play-off spot a few weeks later, which they would convert into a second Super Rugby title.
“A sh*t Richie McCaw” – Peter O’Mahony on Ireland tour of New Zealand 2022
Maybe a bit of recency bias with this one, and again involving my beloved All Blacks.
During Ireland’s 2022 tour of New Zealand, Ireland were 1-0 down in the series after dropping the first game at Eden Park. 75 minutes into the second match, Ireland were ahead 23-7 and a bit of handbags sparked off. With O’Mahony and Sam Cane coming face to face, the Ireland flanker unleashed the cutting one-liner “You’re just a sh*t Richie McCaw pal”, which Cane later described as a good bit of banter.
Ireland went on to win the game and the third Test a week later to secure a famous series win.
The story continued all the way to the Rugby World Cup 2023 where Cane was again asked about it after the quarter-final victory. Cane himself never gave it much notice publicly, but head coach Ian Foster was certainly grinning when asked about it after the last-eight clash.
“Try in the corner” – Carlos Spencer in Super Rugby 2004
As a Blues fan, I miss the days when the rivalry between the Crusaders and Blues was a bit more even and in 2004, Spencer sparked one of the competition’s greatest moments.
The season had only just begun, and both sides had dropped their first-round games. Down in Christchurch, the Blues were up 31-29 with a minute to play. Despite being in their own goal area, the Blues, sparked by an ambitious wide Spencer pass, burst upfield in one of the best coast-to-coast tries you’ll ever see.
Spencer followed up his initial pass by running the support line to finish the move, his second of the match. Instead of dotting it down under the posts, Spencer slowly walked to the corner flag, where he touched the ball down. After that, he not only flipped the bird to the home fans but also processed to kick the sideline conversion to deny the Crusaders a losing bonus-point.
Spencer later went on to say the run to the corner was to use up more time than to rub salt into the wound and that he only flipped the crowd off after a coin was thrown at him by one of the fans.
“Standing over O’Gara” – Johnny Sexton in Heineken Cup 2009
Back in 2009, I wasn’t a regular viewer of the Heineken Cup, but the image of Ronan O’Gara on his knees, Sexton standing over him, giving him a spray, has been burned into my memory.
Back in May 2009, Sexton hadn’t yet made his Ireland debut but was actively chasing down the number 10 jersey from the incumbent O’Gara. In this Heineken Cup semi-final, Leinster were looking to not only knock off the reigning champions, but also make up for a heavy semi-final loss to Munster back in 2006 in the same competition.
With Felipe Contepomi going off early with a knee injury, Sexton came on as a replacement. Not long later, Gordan D’Arcy finished for a long-distance try as Leinster extended their lead and left O’Gara on the floor. Sexton ran right up to him and gave him the spray of all sprays, captured both on video and an iconic photo.
Leinster went on to win the game comfortably and then the title a few weeks later. Sexton later went on to say he regretted the action and felt he’d let himself down for doing it.