RUGBY WORLD CUP: Japan cause massive upset with last gasp win over South Africa

Japan's Karne Hesketh scores the winning try against South Africa
Japan's Karne Hesketh scores the winning try against South Africa

Japan pulled off the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history with a stunning 34-32 win over South Africa at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.

Karne Hesketh’s 84th-minute try capped a mesmerising performance from a side usually playing the role of group stage cannon fodder as they somehow beat the two-time champions.

Georgia's Levan Datunashvili (second right) and Merab Sharikadze (right) celebrate

Georgia's Levan Datunashvili (second right) and Merab Sharikadze (right) celebrate

The underdogs, who have three players in their squad who were not even born when Japan last won a World Cup match in 1991, instead created a shock which will rank among the most remarkable in rugby - and indeed sporting - history.

They led 10-7 midway through the first half thanks to a try from their New Zealand-born captain Michael Leitch, trailed by only two at half-time and promptly took a 13-12 lead after the break.

A try from full-back Ayumu Goromaru, as well as his nerveless kicking, drew them level at 29-29 with just 10 minutes to play, with the rattled South Africans looking nothing like a team among the favourites to win a third world title.

When Handre Pollard kicked a penalty with five minutes remaining it appeared South Africa would at least avoid a humiliating defeat.

But relentless pressure from the brave Japanese paid off when Hesketh scored in the corner to send the crowd wild.

Earlier, there had been another shock when Georgia defeated Pool C rivals Tonga.

Georgia claimed only the third win in their World Cup history as captain Mamuka Gorgodze inspired them to a 17-10 victory at Kingsholm.

The Toulon back-row forward epitomised Georgia’s unrelenting spirit and physical prowess by powering over for a first-half try as a 17-10 triumph meant they added Tonga to previous World Cup scalps Namibia eight years ago and Romania in 2011.

But this was undoubtedly their most satisfying World Cup success, with flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili sealing the deal when he touched down after 57 minutes, while full-back Merab Kvirikashvili kicked a penalty and two conversions.

Tonga replied with a Kurt Morath penalty, while he also converted wing Fetu’u Vainilo’s 72nd-minute try - he became Tonga’s record Test try scorer in the process - yet Georgia deservedly held on after Kvirikashvili was sin-binned during the dying minutes for repeated offside.

It was also a day to savour for 18-year-old Georgia scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze, who became the youngest player ever to feature in the tournament.