Back from the dead: Incredible sporting comebacks

Today’s Super League fixtures saw one of the most remarkable matches in many years, as Hull FC snatched victory over local rivals Hull KR 22-20. What stood out was the manner in which they claimed the spoils. With just over 20 minutes to go, the Black and Whites were yet to get on the scoresheet and had to claw back a 20-point deficit. However, they did just that, and in the process rose to fourth in the table. Here are three more amazing fightbacks.

Tottenham 3-4 Man City, FA Cup, 4 February 2004

In the days before Arab money transformed them into a trophy-winning side, Man City often found themselves languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League. They looked to be heading for a fourth-round exit at White Hart Lane. After 43 minutes, Tottenham looked to be out of sight following goals by Ledley King, Robbie Keane and Christian Ziege. To compound matters for the away side, current Burnley midfielder Joey Barton was given a second yellow just after the half-time whistle had sounded (surprising given his mild-mannered nature). This decision only served to galvanise City, with strikes from Sylvain Distin, Paul Bosvelt and Shaun Wright-Phillips drawing them level with ten minutes of normal time remaining. Then, with time running out, a searching cross from the left-wing by Michael Tarnat was met by a floating header from Jon Macken to send the team through to a meeting with arch-rivals Man United. That is where the fairytale ended however, as the Blues lost 4-2 at Old Trafford.

James Ward 6-7, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6, 15-13 John Isner, Davis Cup, 6 March 2015

On paper, the odds appeared heavily stacked in the American’s favour, as he was nestled just inside the top 20. Despite being a useful singles player, inconsistency has dogged Ward’s game, and at the time of their encounter he lay 91 places below his opponent. The match seemed to be going to form, with Isner’s massive serving and composure during the big points pulling him through the first two sets. However, a break of serve in the sixth game of the third set got the spectators in Glasgow right behind the Briton, as they sensed a revival. A series of gutsy shots then set up a fourth-set tie-break. On this occasion, he held his nerve, and an errant Isner took the match to a decider. The fifth set was an epic tussle. Ward had the opportunity to close out the match at advantage and 5-4, but a booming Isner serve proved snuffed out the chance. Another opportunity presented itself for the Londoner at 10-9, but a forehand on the run just looped long. Finally, at 14-13, Ward had three breaks and did not squander the opportunity, as he drove a double-handed backhand towards the front of the court, which the American could only parry into the net.

The joy was short-lived for Great Britain though. Despite beating their opponents 3-2, they were eliminated by Italy in the next round by the same scoreline.

France 43-31 New Zealand, Rugby Union World Cup, 30 October 1999

Before Japan’s stunning triumph over South Africa at the 2015 tournament, this was in contention for the greatest shock in World Cup history. New Zealand were the clear favourites to progress to the final with the irrepressible Jonah Lomu in their ranks, while France were hoping to build on their third-place finish from four years earlier. Three converted penalties preceded a superb try, instigated by Christian Dominici and finished off by talisman Christophe Lamaison, which put Les Bleus in the ascendancy . A barnstorming try by Lomu put the All Blacks back in front, as he barged past half the French team to ground the ball. A mesmerising move then saw the ball change hands with lightning speed before Lomu once again carved a path to the line. Following the conversion, the Southern Hemisphere side were 14 points to the good, but then came the comeback. Two drop goals from Lamaison in quick succession gave his side renewed hope.  A hopeful punt over the backline then set Dominici away, with the bounce falling perfectly for him, as he sprinted away to the jubilant celebrations of the majority of the Twickenham crowd; they were now in front. Lamaison then produced another piece of genius, lofting the ball into the path of Richard Dourthe, who held on and grounded. The All Blacks were now rattled, and a missed pass deep inside French territory set the Europeans away. The ball was booted downfield, with Olivier Magne giving it a further punt. In hot pursuit, Philippe Bernat-Salles seized on the loose ball and drove successfully to the line, despite the close Kiwi attention. In the dying moments, Jeff Wilson scored a consolation try but it was too little, too late.

France may have played heroically in this match, but they came up against an imperious Australia in the final, losing 35-12.

Alex Bowmer

Featured image: Action Images


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