2022 New Zealand All Blacks vs Australia - Bledisloe Cup, Game 2

The Rugby Championship Recap: A Moment To Remember From Each Round

The Rugby Championship Recap: A Moment To Remember From Each Round

For those who have followed The Rugby Championship this year, the 2022 edition between four familiar teams was unlike any that had been seen before.

Sep 27, 2022 by Briar Napier
The Rugby Championship Recap: A Moment To Remember From Each Round

What a ride.

For those who have followed The Rugby Championship this year, the 2022 edition of the annual showdown between SANZAAR teams was unlike any that had been seen before.

No lead was ever truly safe, no test was ever truly a gimme and the quality of rugby was at a premium, featuring some of the best players on the planet to grace a rugby pitch. 

Even with a familiar result of New Zealand emerging on top, it was far from easy for the All Blacks to get there, being on both the wrong and right side of some of this year's most impactful matches.

Here's a look at a moment that defined each round of this year's Rugby Championship, one of the most enthralling editions of the competition.

Round 1: New Zealand Slumps To Lowest World Ranking After Loss To South Africa 

In case you haven't heard, it for the most part had been a no good, very bad 2022 for New Zealand's men's national rugby team. 

The All Blacks' opening test of this year's Rugby Championship was rock bottom in terms of a world rankings standpoint. 

South Africa won 26-10 in Nelspruit for the Springboks' biggest win over their fellow rugby power in nearly a century, punctuated by tries from Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux, along with a 6-for-6 kicking day from talisman and fly-half Handre Pollard. 

The result marked five defeats in six tests for New Zealand, a near-unprecedented stretch for the country largely considered to be the world's most accomplished rugby nation, and the slide only intensified the then-serious concerns that coach Ian Foster wouldn't make it to next year's Rugby World Cup before being sacked. 

The All Blacks dipped to fifth in the World Rugby Rankings after the loss, an especially jarring fact, considering the team had never been ranked below third in its history, prior to the start of the calendar year. 

New Zealand's revenge win over South Africa in the next round likely saved Foster's job - he officially was backed by the New Zealand Rugby Board three days later to be in charge until the end of France 2023 - but the scars remain, as New Zealand still has much work to do to get back to being the world's most feared side.

Round 2: Argentina Runs All Over Australia In San Juan

The neutral's favorite and the longtime underdog of The Rugby Championship, Argentina, which largely is known for being romped over most of the time in the annual tournament with its SANZAAR mates, instead made a series of emphatic statements this year that showed that the Los Pumas weren't there to take part, but to try and take over. 

The first of those shock results came against Australia in Round 2, when Argentina coach Michael Cheika and his men nabbed the largest win in team history, topping the Wallabies in a 48-17 blowout. 

Los Pumas crossed over seven times through six different players (prop Thomas Gallo scored twice), as the squad took revenge over Australia's comeback win in Round 1 - and Cheika took revenge on his former employer and home nation, which he took to the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final. 

To be fair to Australia, the team was heavily short-handed during the match, following injuries and departures for other reasons from captain Michael Hooper, fly-half Quade Cooper and hooker Folau Fainga'a, a bug that's unfortunately severely hampered coach Dave Rennie's side throughout this year's Rugby Championship. 

But Argentina certainly didn't mind the advantage and points earned because of it, and little did Los Pumas know that their tournament was about to get even better.

Round 3: Los Pumas Stun All Blacks In New Zealand, Hold Rugby Championship Lead

Astonishing. Breathtaking. Indescribable. It's hard to put Argentina's historic 25-18 win in New Zealand against the All Blacks into proper context, simply because there's arguably never been a bigger shock in the history of The Rugby Championship. 

The stars aligned for Cheika's team that night in Christchurch. There was plenty of confidence from the strong win over Australia the week before, and as mentioned previously, New Zealand was amid the slump of a generation. 

But for Los Pumas to pull off just their second victory in 34 tests against the All Blacks - and by doing it for the first time on New Zealand soil - it put them in first place in The Rugby Championship halfway through the competition and earned them the right to be taken seriously as legit title contenders and not just flashes in the pan. 

Playmaker Emiliano Boffelli (20 points, 7-for-7 kicking) outscored New Zealand by himself, while Cheika became the second coach, along with England's Eddie Jones, to beat the All Blacks with multiple national teams. 

Australia's 25-17 win over South Africa the same weekend in the Wallabies' first trip to Adelaide since 2004 deserves a shout, but no one was taking Argentina's moment away from it, not after evaluating the sheer significance of what Los Pumas accomplished at the Orangetheory Stadium.

Round 4: Springboks Spoil Wallabies' Party In Sydney

Australia was riding high after three rounds with two wins under its belt and a large say in the Rugby Championship title race, as it was in sight of leader Argentina. Plus, the shiny new Sydney Football Stadium, which officially had opened just a week earlier, was sure to have a fervent and electric crowd set to welcome the reeling Springboks in Round 4. 

But South Africa showed that, after all, it is the defending world champion and it deserves the utmost respect. 

Coach Jacques Nienaber's men spoiled the party in Sydney and dismantled the Wallabies in a 24-8 triumph, ending a spell of Springboks hoodoo in the Land Down Under, as South Africa picked up its first win in Australia since 2013. 

Debutant winger Canan Moodie scored a try, as did Damian de Allende, Franco Mostert and Makazole Mapimpi, while the Boks shut down an Australian attack that often broke through their defense in the meeting at the Adelaide Oval. 

It helped South Africa right back in The Rugby Championship's title picture, placing the Boks a point back of top-placed New Zealand (which destroyed Argentina 53-3 that same weekend in a fiery response to its upset loss to the same country) with a series against Los Pumas to go. 

Round 5: New Zealand Wins Bledisloe Cup Opener In Controversial Fashion

Though New Zealand's storming back from bottom of The Rugby Championship table to winning it all is admirable and deserves plenty of credit, the All Blacks wouldn't have won this year's competition had they not narrowly edged past Australia in the first round of the 2022 Bledisloe Cup. Dependent on which fanbase you ask, with or without the help of the referee.

In a now-infamous decision mere seconds before the final siren, match official Mathieu Raynal whistled play dead to cite Australia fly-half Bernard Foley for time wasting, as he was positioned to kick the ball out of touch following a New Zealand penalty. 

With the Wallabies ahead by a 37-34 margin, a Foley boot almost certainly would've given Australia enough breathing room to outlast its trans-Tasman neighbor and pick up a massive win in Melbourne. 

Instead, the ruling meant the All Blacks had been awarded a scrum - and another shot at winning on the brink of defeat - just a few meters outside the Australian try line, of which New Zealand capitalized through a walkoff Jordie Barrett try to stun the home crowd. 

Nearly two weeks after it happened, there still is intense debate about whether Raynal was in the right to make the call he did. Nevertheless for Australia, what was going to be a historic night became a terrible nightmare with one screech of the whistle.

Round 6: All Blacks Come Back From The Brink To Win Rugby Championship

In about a six-week timespan, Ian Foster went from being on the brink of losing his job to a winner of two trophies in successive days. Funny how international rugby works sometimes. 

The All Blacks demolished the Wallabies in a 40-14 rout at Eden Park in Auckland, a stadium where New Zealand has never lost in the professional era, to clinch the Bledisloe Cup for a record 20th consecutive year.

When South Africa didn't overcome long odds to overtake them in The Rugby Championship table just hours later, the All Blacks ended up on top in SANZAAR's annual competition for the eighth time in 10 iterations. 

No team in The Rugby Championship era (since 2012) had previously won in a given year with two or more defeats in a single tournament, let alone anyone in New Zealand's position this time around of having suffered two defeats in its first three matches. 

Due to the crazy nature of the 2022 competition, in which every team mathematically still was in the running to win the title entering the sixth and final round, the All Blacks both found a bit of luck in that other nations didn't capitalize on their mistakes and that they emerged late in the competition, looking more like the world-beating New Zealand team rugby merely had to get used to throughout much of the 21st century.