Ranked: New Zealand’s 50 greatest sporting wins of the last 50 years

New Zealand sporting teams have produced many famous wins – and certainly a decent amount of heartbreaking defeats. Chris Rattue and Cameron McMillan went about the task of deciding on our nation’s 50 greatest team wins in the last 50 years.

The rules
– Only team victories were considered – rowing pairs make a team. An equestrian rider and a horse are not a team (or they would both get medals).
– There must be an international component.
– Taken over a 50-year period – From January 1, 1971 until December 31, 2020.
– It must be a victory. Sorry All Whites 1 Italy 1.

Wins don’t come any more famous, but not exactly a triumph of the human spirit. Locks Andy Haden and Frank Oliver dived out of a lineout to encourage English referee Roger Quittenton to award a late penalty which Brian McKechnie toe-hacked for victory.

The Southlander was not overly-fit for duty after a night socialising – his injury-enforced elevation to the bench was only made on match morning. He entered the game after seven minutes, for an injured Clive Currie, and the history books in the 78th minute with his slightly angled goal. Cheating or not, depending on who tells the story, the dives helped these All Blacks become the first to complete the Grand Slam with wins over the four Home Unions.

Haden skipped the post-match dinner to accompany Currie, who had a broken jaw, to the hotel. “They’ll be asking the same questions in 50 years,” he quipped, as calls flooded to his room. – CR. Photo credit – YouTube.

***

After day one with Pakistan cruising at 281-3 at stumps it seemed a series defeat was on the cards. Then the cricketing world was rocked by the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes. The test was suspended for a day and the Black Caps decided to honour Hughes by not bowling any short balls for the remainder of the match.

Pakistan still made 351 thanks to 197 from Mohammed Hafeez with Black Caps spinner Mark Craig taking 7-94. You shouldn’t lose at test with 351 on the board but the Black Caps responded with their highest innings score of 690. Brendon McCullum (202) and Kane Williamson (192) put on 297 for the second wicket – a New Zealand record. Pakistan were then bowled out for 259 as the Black Caps completed a remarkable innings victory.

McCullum said they found solace in each other’s company after the Hughes tragedy.

“It hit the guys hard. We spent a lot of time together away from the ground. The focus is normally about ‘team’ but this time we had to ensure each individual was okay first.

“Even now it’s hard to talk about the game with a glowing report when you know what they’re dealing with back in Australia. We’ll look back in time and be proud of we achieved but there was an empty feeling at times.” – CM. Photo credit – Getty.

***

Auckland City players celebrated wildly after a penalty shootout win over Moghreb Tetouan, from hosts Morocco, got them into the quarter-finals. New Zealand suddenly took major notice of a hitherto obscure event, as Auckland beat African champions ES Setif from Algeria, thanks to a second-half goal from defender John Irving.

Playing a possession style under Spanish coach Ramon Tribulietx, and led by All Whites stalwart Ivan Vicelich, Auckland City were living a dream on the world stage.

Wide-eyed sports fans learned a semifinal win over Argentina’s San Lorenzo meant Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale et al. – may await in the final. Auckland fell short, but what a magical ride. – CR. Photo credit – Getty.

***

For the first time in six Commonwealth Games attempts, the women’s Black Sticks finally struck gold and they did it in very convincing fashion against Australia. Nothing beats dominating the Aussies in a big game.

“I said to the girls, this is the most excited I’ve been for a game of hockey,” captain Stacey Michelsen beamed post-match. “We came out with a huge amount of energy and continued that through the game.”

Shiloh Gloyn smashed in the opening goal shortly before halftime. The Black Sticks followed up with penalty corner goals in the 34th, 42nd and 56th minutes to Rose Keddell, Olivia Merry and Anita McLaren as they put the match result in a vice. For a team that had fallen short so often in big tournaments, they finally seized their moment on the big stage. – CM. Photo credit – Brett Phibbs.

***

A weird thing about the avalanche victory in this final round clash is it was no mismatch. The Waratahs were near the top of the table, pushing for a title. The All Blacks-laden Crusaders led 63–0 at halftime in a game which the one and only Richie McCaw, a man not given to rambling on, has labelled “bizarre”.

The equally downbeat Reuben Thorne, the 2002 captain, reckoned it was “hard to know what to say after a game like that.” He thought it was “just one of those nights”, even though it clearly wasn’t. “Everything went our way,” Thorne continued, after the extraordinary slaughter in front of a packed house. It was Crusaders rugby – which is exceptional anyway – at its best. They won the 2002 title undefeated. – CR. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

There were, at most, 9000 at the well-worn league ground in downtown Auckland for the Wednesday night match. But it sounded like 20,000 as Cameron Bell’s Auckland – minus six test or injured players – made it clear they meant business.Australia were full of superstars – including a halves combo of Greg Alexander and Wally Lewis – and had not lost a non-test match in nearly a decade. Players like Tawera Nikau, George Mann and Kelly Shelford were the headline acts in a cobbled-together Auckland side given no chance of victory.

A late penalty goal to captain Shelford – after a soft penalty against Alexander from local whistler Bill Shrimpton – did the trick as the crowd went wild, invading the field and chanting “Auckland” at fulltime. – CR. Photo credit – Herald archives.

***

The end of a golden era with – in particular – the legendary Mark Sorenson bowing out on a massive home run to help overcome a 3-0 deficit in the world softball final. It was a gathering of the softball clan in Christchurch, where the Black Sox became the first and still only team to win three consecutive titles.

“We are a simple bunch of guys, we have pride and passion to play for New Zealand, that is unquestioned,” said Sorenson, who won his fourth title.

Whereas New Zealand relied heavily on great pitching and defence in its early years, the rise of Kiwi batting power was there for all to see in this game. After a fiery playoff game between the two teams, the Canadians had no answer in the final once the Kiwi bats got working. – CR. Photo credit – Geoff Sloan.

***

You’ve got to love a come from behind victory and that’s what the New Zealand double sculls duo did to perfection at Eton Dorney. With 500m left in the final Cohen and Sullivan sat fourth, 2.4 seconds behind the leaders Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti of Italy.

“Surprisingly Cohen and Sullivan are finding it hard,” the commentator said just as they began to make their move. They quickly moved into third and then cruised by the Slovenian duo in second.And then just like that there were in command of the race and surged across the final line. It’s as if they were in two gears higher than the rest of the contenders in the final 400 metres.

There have been other team golds on the water for New Zealand but the way Cohen and Sullivan earned theirs is one of the most memorable. – CM. Photo credit – Mark Mitchell.

***

Women’s football was still establishing its credentials in a male-dominated environment in the 1980s, but Taiwan hosted invitational tournaments that were the forerunner to an actual World Cup.

In 1987, New Zealand scored this great victory beating an American outfit including rising superstars such as teenagers Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly. New Zealand held America at bay, with the mother-daughter combination of Barbara and teenager Michele Cox in the heart of the defence. Ali Grant scored the winner, on a breakaway in a game dominated by the Americans.

Tough times still lay ahead for our women’s football before it began to surge. But these 80s pioneers, and this win, deserve to be celebrated. – CR. Photo credit – Supplied.

***

New Zealand tasted its finest Davis Cup moment on the clay courts of a northern Italian resort town. Chris Lewis clinched the tie with a three-set victory over Adriano Panatta, a man six years past his world No 4 prime but still a tough clay court opponent considering he won the French Open.

Russell Simpson, the star of the win over Spain in Christchurch four months earlier, and Lewis had both won their opening games. Lewis said the Kiwis’ victory was built on a tough practice routine in Cervia. A reluctant flyer, he had driven from Wimbledon where, a year later, he had his greatest moment, making the final against John McEnroe. Yannick Noah was the dominant force in France’s home semifinal win over the New Zealanders. – CR. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

The 1993 British and Irish Lions weren’t the greatest side to tour New Zealand and it was mostly their midweek dirt-trackers who took on the Magpies but it remains a famous result. Hawke’s Bay were in an era where they were either first division strugglers or battlers to win promotion to the first division – where they would again struggle. It seemed an easy fixture for the Lions side captained by England first-five Stuart Barnes and featuring the likes of Will Carling, Tony Underwood and Jason Leonard. 17-5 up at halftime it was all going as expected. Until the Magpies scored 24 unanswered points as their forwards dominated the Lions pack. Simon Tremain, son of All Black great Kel, capped off the win by pouncing on a Lions lineout mistake.

“We didn’t do justice to the jerseys we were wearing. Some of them will have to look good and hard at themselves,” Lions coach Ian McGeechan said.

A few days later the Lions levelled the test series with a 20-7 victory in Wellington, meaning for a week in the Hawke’s Bay schoolyards, it was believed the Magpies were even better than the All Blacks. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

Having won the opener in Auckland, the Breakers finished the job in the Cats’ den before more than 13,000 wild Perth fans.It completed a three-peat of basketball titles for the Breakers, as Aussie NBL legend CJ Bruton, league MVP Cedric Jackson from America, local hero Tom Abercrombie and co. stormed home after a superb season.

Bruton – whose dad Cal had been central to the Perth club’s rise – drained the vital free throws with nine seconds left. Coach Andrej Lemanis lauded the 37-year-old, but Bruton reckoned “this is all about the Breakers – this is not about Bruton”.The departing Lemanis – who was about to be appointed the Australian coach -said: “Everyone expected Perth to win…it’s been a special team.” – CR. Photo credit – Getty.

***

Two years earlier Australia’s women left New Zealand heart-broken in the Rio Olympics final. This was New Zealand’s sweet revenge thanks to a stunning match-winning try from Kelly Brazier after the hooter in extra time. Locked 12-12 at full-time – Australia’s Cassie Staples inexplicably kicked the ball out thinking her side had nailed their final conversion to win it.

In extra time, Niall Williams pulled off a match-saving tackle at the death, just before Brazier broke away. In punishing 31 degree heat, both teams were out on their feet. Brazier looked around for support before realising she had to do it herself. That she did, with a piece of superb individual brilliance. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

It had been 14 straight and often heavy defeats since the Kiwis beat Australia at Carlaw Park in 1971, including a test in Auckland a month earlier.

The powerful Australians included Ray Price, Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga and Gene Miles, and they hadn’t lost at Lang Park for 20 years. The Kiwis were dotted with part-timers and also players who will stand forever amongst our best – Kurt Sorensen, James Leuluai, Fred Ah Kuoi et al. They were coached by a man beginning an incredible rise in Graham Lowe.

This 1983 victory signposted that the Kiwi league gloom of the 1970s had truly lifted. “We could have played on all night,” recalled the mercurial little Auckland fullback Nicky Wright, who made a vital tackle on the giant Meninga. “They would have got close but never past us.” – CR. Photo credit – Herald archives.

***

A catchy nickname – Team Jolly – has helped them win recognition but Aleh and Powrie’s superb performance is still a bit of a hidden gem. A country which has feasted on match racing in the America’s Cup dips in and out of Olympic yachting, depending on whether medals are in the offing. In this case, the Kiwi team was in dog fight for gold. The British – their only gold medal rivals – pinned Aleh and Powrie at the start of the final fleet race. But the Kiwis played it perfectly and the gold was theirs. It was superb sailing.

The fanfare, compared to many of our Olympic golds, was limited however. As they prepared for the Rio Olympics four years later, Aleh said: “I think we’re happy to slip under the radar. We do what we do and can’t really control what everyone else does, thinks or says.” – CR. Photo credit – Mark Mitchell.

***

The 2011 Crusaders’ season is one of the most remarkable in New Zealand sporting history. Following the devastating February 22 earthquake, a week into the Super Rugby season, the franchise was left without a home in Christchurch with AMI Stadium suffering irreparable damage. They played home games in Nelson while also travelling to London to face the Stormers in round six. The squad clocked a ridiculous amount of air miles having to also head to South Africa a second time to face the Stormers in the semifinals.

They looked anything but travel-weary scoring 23 unanswered points in a 20-minute first half burst at Newlands. Tries to Sean Maitland and Robbie Fruean and 13 points from the boot of Dan Carter gave the Crusaders 23-10 lead at the break. Their forwards dominated their counterparts to shut out the match in the second half, which booked the Crusaders a spot in a 10th Super Rugby final. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

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For spine tingling majesty, no try matches the golden glow of the sweeping Barbarians masterpiece against the All Blacks in Cardiff, 1973. The All Blacks’ match winner at the death against Ireland in 2013 is a leading contender for silver though, a thing of absolute beauty if ruthless efficiency under extreme pressure floats your boat.

Faced with becoming the first All Black team to lose against Ireland, Richie McCaw and his troops went through a long and perfect routine of power and patience to create Ryan Crotty’s fulltime try.

The final drama wasn’t bad either, Aaron Cruden landing a second shot at the sideline conversion which meant these All Blacks became the first test team of the professional era to win every game in a season. “Our heart monitors went through the roof,” coach Steve Hansen reckoned. – CR. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

Kiwi league coach Bob Bailey cobbled together a team from the top Aussie competition, English clubs big and small, and essentially amateur New Zealand clubs. Australia were loaded with the biggest names in the game, Wally Lewis, Allan Langer, Steve Roach, Bradley Clyde and many more.

The result in front of a big crowd was a monumental upset. In less brain-injury aware times, Kiwi forward Dean Lonergan’s return after he was left twitching on the ground from a head clash epitomised the do-or-die attitude of the heavy underdogs. With established big names Gary Freeman and Brent Todd standing out alongside rising stars such as Tawera Nikau, Richie Blackmore and Jarrod McCracken, Australia were put to the sword.

The euphoric aftermath, including across the Tasman, was amplified by the big gap between tests. As golden glows go, Kiwi league has never had it better. – CR. Photo credit – Getty.

***

They don’t come more unbeatable than Murray and Bond, who went into these Olympics on the back of a victorious four-year charge. A disappointing result in a bigger boat at Beijing led to the formation of this Super Duo whose coxless pairs supremacy would bring them world renown.

The pressure of overwhelming favouritism never got to them. They obliterated the opposition in the heats and semifinals, and beat France by two boat lengths for the gold. More world domination and gold medal glory lay ahead, but you can’t beat that first Olympic triumph and it cemented their names in New Zealand lore. After victory, Bond said: “Whatever happens in the future, we know over these four years we have achieved everything anyone could’ve set out to do.” – CR. Photo credit – Brett Phibbs.

***

The pitcher-catcher combo of Michael White and Mark Sorenson was supreme, with White throwing a perfect game to prevent any Canadian getting on base. He notched 13 strikeouts, with Canada only able to squirt the ball lamely to the infield on a couple of occasions.

“Canada’s got great power hitters – my object was to keep the ball down, and on the ground,” White said, after his stunning effort.

White’s warm up in Michigan was so bad that captain Sorenson revealed years later he advised coach Mike Walsh to ready another pitcher.

“White was so determined and trusted his defence…they hardly got bat on ball from the third innings,” Sorenson said. – CR. Photo credit – Supplied.

***

There were amazing scenes on and around the Auckland Harbour as Peter Blake’s Steinlager 2 won the short third leg from Fremantle over rival Kiwi maxi Fisher & Paykel, skippered by Grant Dalton. Steinlager 2 were supreme in this race, winning all six legs and beating F&P by 36 hours. It was an incredibly close call on this leg, with F&P looking set for a victory until a 40-knot squall took out their spinnaker. Steinlager 2 prevailed by a mere six minutes in a gripping finish, as the boats were greeted by a huge flotilla on a day so unforgettable that the memory says it trumped the race result. – CR. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

The centrepiece of a magnificent year for the Kiwis, probably their best. The Roy Christian-captained Kiwis included men who would become league legends largely due to their deeds that year – Ken Stirling, Mocky Brereton, Bernie Lowther, John Whittaker, Robert Orchard, goalkicking prop Henry Tatana, the influential Tony Kriletich, Colin O’Neil and co. It was a fantastic Aussie side including future immortals Graeme Langlands and Bob Fulton in the backs, and a star-studded pack.

A sign of those times: there were 27 scrums and 24 penalties. Australia’s points came from their least known player, a try to lock Keith Campbell playing his only test. These Kiwis then had a magnificent European tour, including the historic series win over Great Britain. – CR. Photo credit – YouTube.

***

his was Glenn Turner’s test match, as history was made. Australia had only just deigned to play New Zealand in cricket tests again, after a solitary 1940s clash. Five games in, and New Zealand had its first win over the mighty foe. Opener Turner scored centuries in each innings against an underpowered Aussie attack, in a low scoring test on a tricky wicket.

The Australian wickets were shared between Richard Hadlee, Richard Collinge and Dayle Hadlee, plus captain Bevan Congdon’s wobbly medium pace. There was a memorable clash between Turner and Aussie captain Ian Chappell, as the crowd and country became enthralled by events. “Of all the first wins against all the teams this one was the most special,” Turner said. “It gave us that belief.” – CR. Photo credit – Herald archive.

***

The Steve McKean-coached Tall Blacks, including the legendary Stan Hill,scored their first victory over Australia to wild scenes in Lower Hutt. John Hill’s tip-in, after a shot from captain John MacDonald, broke the deadlock in the final act of the game.MacDonald fondly recalled the night as he was inducted into Te Whare Matapuna o Te Ao Māori (Māori Sports Hall of Fame) last year.

“I always reckoned I was fouled on the shot…John was up there to tip it in and yeah, unbelievable feeling,” he said.

“When you see the old footage the crowd went wild. People still remember that night.”– CR. Photo credit – YouTube.

***

Melbourne were virtually unbeatable at home, a reason why a 2020 poll still rated this the biggest playoff shock in NRL history. The Warriors became the first eighth-placed team to beat the minor premiers, but the match is remembered for much more than that. Michael Witt celebrated the winning try before scoring it by raising the ball in jubilation as defenders closed, to widespread disbelief and criticism. “No, no, no, no, no” yelled commentator Phil Gould, using one of his favourite phrases, before adding “no, no, no, no, no.”

Witt’s crazy theatrics overshadowed the brilliant way he drifted inside to find a gap from Manu Vatuvei’s pass, after fabulous lead-up work from Vatuvei and Jerome Ropati. Unforgettable drama. CR. Photo credit – Photosport

The Warriors-Storm rivalry has tended to be a little one-sided towards the Melbourne franchise especially in the traditional Anzac fixture but the Warriors seem to have their number in these playoff games. It was another thriller decided by some dazzling work by Shaun Johnson who bamboozled the Storm defence in the 77th minute with some side-stepping and deft dummy passing to open a gap and set up Lewis Brown for the match-winner against the minor premiers.

Warriors great Simon Mannering rates it as the best performance he was a part of as the win earned the side their second trip to the grand final. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

A Black Caps test win on Aussie soil doesn’t come around that often. This was the first one since 1985 and just the third in total. The player of the match controversially went to Aussie opener David Warner but it probably should have gone to the Hobart curator after a green pitch led to a bowler-dominated test. The Black Caps were sent in, very rare in Australia, and were bowled out before tea on day one for 150 – with Dean Brownlie’s 56 making up more than a third of the total. But Australia also struggled on the green top, managing just 136. Game on.

Chasing 241 for victory, Warner was left stranded on 123 not out as Doug Bracewell snapped up Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey before tearing through the tail-enders and finish with 6-40. There was still some controversy at the end as DRS initially denied the final wicket of Nathan Lyon before Bracewell clean bowled him as New Zealand claimed the seventh-closest margin of victory in tests. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

The two great rivals have played some amazing contents of late but the stage of the World Cup sees this one crack the list. At the end of it the All Blacks were emotionally drained and physically exhausted and had certainly earned their spot in the final at Twickenham – which they would win the following week.

It was a brutal encounter with both sides seemingly on top at times. The Boks held a 12-7 lead with All Blacks tryscorer Jerome Kaino in the bin when Dan Carter slotted a tension-lifting drop goal. That began a 13-point run for the All Blacks but a flawless Handre Pollard from the tee kept the Springboks in it. With the All Blacks holding a slim two-point lead, lock Sam Whitelock made a vital lineout steal to pinch possession and deny the Boks a final shot at it. – CM. Photo credit – Brett Phibbs.

***

New Zealand’s golden girls four years earlier were very rusty heading into their Olympic title defence. They couldn’t even make the final of the warm-up meet. “We returned to New Zealand shattered,” said Georgina. “We were very low on confidence.” They had very little expectations in Beijing but pulled off a stunning gold medal effort to pip the German pair of Annekatrin Thiele and Christiane Huth by the slimmest of margins. The race took them seven minutes and 07.32 seconds – they led for only one-hundredth of a second. One of the great late gold medal charges in New Zealand history. – CM. Photo credit – Herald archives.

***

ustralia had a psychological grip on New Zealand, prevailing in a series of tough encounters over many years and holding the world title since 1987. That was ended – albeit briefly as it turned out – as the Ruth Aitken-coached Silver Ferns, with shooter and South African recruit Irene van Dyk the star, broke the drought in Jamaica.

The Ferns had to survive the sinbinning of centre Temepara Clark – who had a terrific final – on a dubious second offence ruling. She powered back into the game, saying: “I owed my mates”.Van Dyk’s precision won the day, with Australia having six more shots at goal.

“If you say Kiwis aren’t mentally tough, well, boy, you want to look at that crew,” Aitken said. “It wanted to make my heart burst.” – CR. Photo credit – Getty.

***

Winning a series in South Africa had become the Holy Grail for All Blacks of a certain age. The great day arrived for the John Hart-coached team in August 1996, the first test win in Durban followed by this series clincher at Loftus Versfeld. After Zinzan Brooke’s famous drop goal, the Springboks launched a final attack in injury time, hunting the draw. The game finished with a collapsed maul on the All Black tryline. Exhausted captain Sean Fitzpatrick – the son of an All Black – thumped the ground in celebration. Fitzpatrick rated it above the 1987 World Cup victory, although he said younger players – who grew up when South Africa was banished over apartheid – needed educating on the significance.

“We had a crusade. We knew what we were doing. In 1987, I don’t think we really did or knew how much it meant,” he said. – CR. Photo credit -Herald archives.

***

New Zealand’s most famous golfing victory outside of the four major wins. The quartet of Michael Campbell, Stephen Scahill, Grant Moorhead and Phil Tataurangi came from two shots behind leaders USA on the final day the claim the amateur team event named after former American president Dwight D. Eisenhower.The US team featured future Open Championship winners David Duval and Jason Leonard. A 20-year-old Tataurangi, who won the individual title, secured the victory on the 18th hole before accidently fist-pumping Moorhead in the head during the celebrations.

“It’s one of those dreams to come true. Not that we don’t deserve it,” Tataurangi said after the victory. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

etting Australia just 184 to win, it looked odds-on that the White Ferns would suffer another final defeat after also falling short at the 1993 and 1997 tournaments. Aussie skipper Belinda Clark was on the way to a match-winning knock before her departure for 91 set up a thrilling ending at Lincoln Oval.Heading into the 50th over, Australian needed five to win with one wicket in hand.Spin bowler Clare Nicholson secured the World Cup on the first ball with Aussie number 10 Charmaine Mason edging behind to Rebecca Rolls.

It was the perfect ending to the career of New Zealand great Debbie Hockley who was playing in her 118th ODI and had been in two previous World Cup final defeats. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

The birth of Canoe Nation. The New Zealand team, and 32-year-old Ian Ferguson in a particular, had a brilliant Olympics, highlighted by their win in the K4. Grant Bramwell, Ferguson, Paul MacDonald and Alan Thompson kept Sweden at bay for their kayak victory. Four years earlier, the latter three had defied Government pressure related to the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan and competed at the boycott-hit Moscow Olympics.

They went from the relative anonymity of those strange times to becoming, in the case of Ferguson and MacDonald, Kiwi sporting superstars and household names. Tiny canoeing was an obscure sport no more. Bramwell gave a lot of credit to Thompson, the K1 gold medallist, who adapted the endurance techniques of athletics guru Arthur Lydiard for the canoe team. – CR. Photo credit – Paul Estcourt.

***

Rugby league World Cup formats are forever changing. The tournament does have one strong theme however – Australia invariably triumphs. They had won six on the trot before a respectable Kiwis team, guided by coaches Stephen Kearney and Aussie Wayne Bennett, caused a massive boil over against a Kangaroos unit studded with big names like Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston.

The Aussies challenged the Kiwis in the pre-match haka and jumped to a 10–0 lead. The Kiwis gained a two point lead just after halftime, and kept their noses in front. A defining moment: star fullback Billy Slater’s crazy pass which handed Benji Marshall a try. Even the best succumb to pressure now and then. – CR. Photo credit – Photosport.

***

Team New Zealand were so close to a great victory on the game-changing foils in San Francisco four years earlier, before an 8-1 lead turned into an infamous choke against defenders Oracle Team USA.

TNZ made amends in absolute style in Bermuda, a triumph of boat design as much as anything as high-speed foiling became the norm. The build-up was confusing and dramatic in the classic America’s Cup tradition. The challenger series included a heart-stopping TNZ capsize.

But the result of the main event was never in doubt, as Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Glenn Ashby flew their catamarans to an emphatic victory over the Jimmy Spithill-skippered Oracle. “A day you can only dream about coming true,” said TNZ boss Grant Dalton. – CM. Photo credit – Getty Images.

***

It was such a milestone win that reportedly sports stores around the country were selling out of basketballs. New Zealand had already beaten Russia and Venezuela in group play to advance to the second round of the 2002 Basketball World Championships but heavy defeats to Germany and USA seemed they were destined for an exit. They had to beat China in their final second round game, a team which featured NBA superstar Yao Ming, all 2.29 metres of him. New Zealand trailed 35-13 at the end of the first quarter before staging a remarkable comeback outscoring China 31-17 in the final quarter to steal the victory. Phil Jones led the way with 33 points.

The win booked a surprise spot in the quarter-finals and the Tall Blacks extended their run with a victory over Puerto Rico before losing to eventual winners Yugoslavia in the semifinals. The Tall Blacks finished fourth, ahead of home favourites USA. – CM. Photo credit – NBAE via Getty Images.

***

It was the perfect wet-weather performance at a soggy Athletic Park. Just look at that side. Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Jeff Wilson at the back, the combinations of Bunce and Little, Mehrtens and Marshall, a loose forward trio of Michael Jones, Josh Kronfeld and Zinzan Brooke, Ian Jones and Robin Brooke and a front row of Dowd, Fitzpatrick and Brown.

The opposition weren’t too bad either with the Wallabies side including some of their greatest names in Campese, Eales, Horan and Burke. The All Blacks forwards dominated their Aussie counterparts for the entire 80 minutes while the backs couldn’t do a thing wrong with the platform and ball provided. – CM. Photo credit – Martin Hunter.

***

The Silver Ferns were transformed from a shambles to world champions in less than a year under new coach Noeline Taurua.It had been 16 long years – during which the Aussies had dominated at all levels – since the Ferns had tasted World Cup glory.

Recalled veterans Laura Langman and Casey Kopua were at the heart of the victory in a team which had inexplicably plummeted to fifth in the world rankings. Australia got to within a point of New Zealand a number of times in the fourth quarter during a thriller final.

“Our fossils stood up and led from the front. I’m actually quite speechless,” said Taurua, after one of the great coaching victories. – CR. Photo credit – Getty Images.

***

The Black Ferns have captured a record five World Cup titles but it’s their latest triumph that stands out. They were coming off the disappointment of missing the semifinals three years earlier and were up against defending champions England. What resulted was11 tries in an enthralling encounter placed at pace with long distance tries and forward pushovers. England took advantage of a yellow card against New Zealand flanker Sarah Goss to go up 17-5 in the first half before the Black Ferns took control. Black Ferns prop Toka Natua scored a hattrick while fullback Selica Winiata book-ended the final with tries. – CM. Photo credit – Getty Images.

***

Or make that Richard Hadlee beat Australia. He took nine for 52 in the first innings during which he even made a running catch for the other wicket, having already claimed eight. Centuries to John Reid and Martin Crowe put New Zealand in control, with Hadlee smashing a quick half century. Australia made a decent fist of a second innings fightback, but Hadlee took another six wickets to finish with an amazing 15 for 123. It was an unforgettable result leading to a series win, the last against the Aussies. And Hadlee showed no regret over missing a 10-wicket haul. “Some people asked me why I didn’t drop the catch. But I said to them that the game of cricket is not like that. You take every opportunity,” Hadlee said. – CR. Photo credit – Paul Estcourt.

***

Jonah Lomu. That’s it. What more can you say about this test? Sure it was an impressive team performance that booked the All Blacks a spot into a second World Cup final but really it was Lomu’s test. It was another breakout performance in a breakout tournament for the once in a century All Black. It produced one of the most iconic moments of the game when he run straight through Mike Catt in the second minute. France Bunce and Glen Osborne combined to set up a Josh Kronfeld try a couple of minutes later and the semifinal looked done after five minutes. But Lomu wasn’t. He terrorised the English all day finishing with four tries.

England still scored four of their own, still the most by a losing semifinalist, but they had no answer for Lomu that day. The All Blacks were superb, and number eight Zinzan Brooke even kicked a long-range drop goal. But for one of the great team performances you can’t help but focus on the great number 11. – CM. Photo credit. Getty Images.

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Montreal will forever hold a special place in Kiwi hearts. Olympic gold medals don’t come any more surprising or memorable than this. It was a classic of the amateur era, an everyman team climbing their Everest. Australia were massive favourites for the final on artificial turf, which hockey was using at the Olympics for the first time.

Players like heroic goalkeeper Trevor Manning – who saw out the game with a smashed kneecap – and goalscorer Tony Ineson became household names. This was New Zealand sport’s ultimate flash in the pan – the team wasn’t even sent to the world championships two years later over money issues.

“People [still] recognise the name and ask ‘were you one of the hockey players?'” Ineson said many years later. – CR. Photo credit – Herald archives.

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The photo of the victorious eight, their arms raised together, hands clasped, is etched in the minds of New Zealanders of a certain age. The eight won easily over the Americans, with all of their financial advantages, and East Germany, from the imposing Communist state sports system. Guided by legendary coach Rusty Robertson the Kiwis were the favourites, but also popular amateur underdogs. In a historical moment, God Defend New Zealand replaced God Save the Queen at the medal ceremony. Emotions were high.

“We were bawling like babies – awesome,” recalled gold medalist Wybo Veldman. – CR. Photo credit – Supplied.

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New Zealand needed to win by six goals to pip China for the second Asian spot at the 1982 Fifa World Cup finals in Spain. No one gave them much of a chance, but this long and magical journey into history was not to be denied. By halftime the All Whites led 5–0, the last goal coming via a Brian Turner penalty, the veteran a bag of nerves as the ball kept rolling off the spot.

A delighted but almost disbelieving New Zealand assistant coach Kevin Fallon later joked: “I thought Charlie [Dempsey, NZ football boss] must have bought them [Saudi Arabia] off.” A goalless second half forced a playoff against China in Singapore, which they won 2–0. – CR. Photo credit – Herald archives.

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Rated as one of the greatest netball tests of all time. In one of the best displays of clutch shooting, Maria Tutaia nailed victory on the two-goal rule after the scores were deadlocked following extra time. The Silver Ferns almost threw it away however before both teams missed winning shots. New Zealand held a 40-33 lead early in the fourth quarter, only to go into panic mode in the closing stages.

Replacement Australian goal shoot Catherine Cox and New Zealand flagbearer Irene van Dyk, who tried a high-risk long range shot, both had chances to seal it in the final minute of ordinary time, and both missed to leave the match alive. Eventually Tutaia secured a second straight Commonwealth Games gold for the Ferns. – CM. Photo credit – Brett Phibbs.

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The Rory Fallon header, the Mark Paston save, the nervous final minutes as New Zealand booked just their second trip to the World Cup and first since 1982. Many who were there rate it as their greatest fan experience. Sure it wasn’t against an amazing opposition and New Zealand had home advantage but it was the moment for a generation of football fans who didn’t experience the All Whites playing at a World Cup the first time around.

It’s certainly helped by the fact they did a pretty impressive job in South Africa as well to just fall short of qualifying for the second round. – CM. Photo credit – Photosport.

Read more: One Night in November: A written history of the All Whites’ win over Bahrain

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Eden Park is better known as a rugby venue and struggles to host cricket matches these days. But this day-night semifinal against South Africa produced unforgettable scenes and a stunning atmosphere. Chasing a hefty 298 from 43 overs in a rain affected match, Johannesburg-raised Grant Elliott swatted a winning six off Dale Steyn, over long on, with one delivery remaining. The crowd went berserk.

Elliott helped a disconsolate Steyn off the ground in a fittingly classy finish to a wonderful occasion, as New Zealand contemplated its first World Cup final appearance. South Africa captain AB de Villiers rated it “the most electric crowd” he’d played in front of. Elliott said: “The elation – throwing my arms up in the air – was probably more relief than victory.” The seat where the ball landed has even been immortalised with a plaque. – CR. Photo credit – Brett Phibbs.

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‘And the America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s Cup’. Peter Montgomery had plenty of time to prepare the famous line. The victory was by almost two minutes but was the ‘closest’ of the five victories, which shows just how much better the New Zealand entry was. Dennis Conner and his Stars and Stripes had no answer to NZL 32 as the US had to hand over the Auld Mug for just the second time in 144 years.

The entire country was enthralled by the event as Sir Peter Blake, Sir Russell Coutts and their crew were celebrated with parades on their return. Even commemorative stamps were made to mark the occasion.We’re used to the narrative of little New Zealand upsetting a major nation but this wasn’t beaten the French or the English – it was Americans and rich ones at that. – CM. Photo credit – Getty.

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Excruciatingly magnificent. It finally broke the World Cup drought after so much heartbreak in the subsequent attempts that followed the 1987 triumph. It wasn’t pretty but it included a wonderful opening try, the only All Black try, from a lineout move and a fairly simple penalty attempt that launched the cult status of Stephen Donald. The rest was about as memorable as a trip to the dentist – but because of the result it was like you didn’t get an exorbitant bill at the end.

“Throughout that last 20 minutes, I definitely had thoughts of what happened in 2007 running through my head. It was just desperation really,” said an honest Tony Woodcock who finished with more than half of New Zealand’s points. It was probably the same thoughts many New Zealand fans were having. Skipper Richie McCaw, who played the final with a broken foot, also put it succinctly…in a very Kiwi way. “It’s hard to describe, I am absolutely shagged”. – CM. Photo credit – Brett Phibbs.

Breakdown of wins

By sport

Rugby – 12
League – 7
Cricket – 6
Sailing – 4
Rowing – 4
Football – 4
Basketball – 3
Netball – 3
Hockey – 2
Softball – 2
Golf – 1
Canoeing – 1
Tennis – 1

By sex
40 male
10 female

By opponent –
Australia/Australian 21
South Africa/South African 4
England/British 4
USA 3

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