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Top 100 sporting moments of 2023: 30-21

Sports Mole counts down the 100 greatest sporting moments of 2023, continuing with numbers 30 to 21.

The year 2023 has been another hugely eventful one across sport, with countless records set, new ground broken and non-stop drama and controversy along the way.

From World Cups in rugby union, women's football, cricket and netball to rarely-seen feats in darts, formula 1 and MMA, the past year has contained thrills and spills to keep any sports fan entertained, regardless of what they are interested in.

GOATs have been crowned, sporting perfection has been achieved and a plethora of prestigious honours and trophies have been hoisted aloft.

Here, Sports Mole takes on the sizeable task of narrowing the last 365 days down to the 100 greatest sporting moments from across the spectrum, based on a ranking system which takes into account prestige, drama, history, newsworthiness, quality and importance.

So sit back and raise a glass to another historic year of sport with the conclusive list of the 100 greatest moments, continuing with numbers 30 to 21.

SPORTS MOLE'S TOP 100 SPORTING MOMENTS OF 2023

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1



30. Stuart Broad's fairytale finale to draw Ashes series (July 31)

England's Stuart Broad celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Alex Carey on July 31, 2023© Reuters

An Ashes series for the ages came to a fitting conclusion at the end of July when one of the famous trophy's greatest competitors wrote one final chapter into its history books with a fairytale finale.

England legend Stuart Broad announced at the end of day three of the fifth Test that he would be retiring at the end of the series, bringing an end to one of cricket's greatest careers that had been defined more than anything else by his Ashes exploits.

Having already surpassed 600 Test wickets and become the outright highest wicket-taker against Australia during the series, Broad then proceeded to smash his last ball in cricket for six on day four, before taking a wicket with his last delivery in Test cricket on day five - the only player in the long history of the game to have completed that unique feat.

England had turned day five around with a flurry of wickets after a rain delay to put them back in command of the game, and Broad then mopped up the final two to ensure the perfect end to his illustrious career.

The victory also ensured that a thrilling Ashes series was drawn at 2-2, completing England's comeback from 2-0 down and denying Australia a first outright series win in England since 2001, with only a rained-off fourth Test at Old Trafford preventing the hosts from winning it outright themselves.



29. Napoli win Serie A title (May 4)

Napoli's Giovanni Di Lorenzo lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning Serie A on June 4, 2023© Reuters

Naples had plenty of time to gear itself up for a first Scudetto since 1990, yet nothing could fully prepare the city for the scenes which greeted the Serie A title being officially decided in May.

Not since the days of Diego Maradona had the football-mad city been crowned champions of Italy, with those title triumphs in 1986-87 and 1989-90 being the only two previous league titles in their entire history.

The destination of the 2022-23 trophy had been obvious for some time, with Napoli far and away the best team in the division throughout the campaign, and the supporters released all of that pent-up anticipation with the party of all parties once they mathematically wrapped things up with five games to spare.

A midweek 1-1 draw with Udinese ultimately got them over the line, with star man Victor Osimhen fittingly providing the equaliser which earned them the point they needed.

Having declared bankruptcy and dropped all the way down to Serie C since their last title success, the end to their 33-year drought will go down as one of the greatest days in the club's entire history.



28. Luton Town complete rise from fifth tier to Premier League (May 27)

General view of a giant replica trophy as Luton Town's Sonny Bradley lifts the trophy with the team after winning the Championship Playoff Final on May 27, 2023© Reuters

The 2022-23 Championship playoff final was one that no-one would have predicted as underdogs Luton Town and Coventry City met at Wembley, both looking to end lengthy absences from the top flight.

Luton in particular were the subjects of much interest heading into the match due to their throwback stadium and journey up and down the division since last being relegated from the top tier.

The Hatters missed out on the inaugural Premier League season courtesy of relegation in 1992, and since then they had dropped out of the Football League entirely, plummeting as far down as the fifth tier of English football.

Indeed, they were a National League side just nine years before their trip to Wembley in May, when they overcame Coventry on penalties to complete the joint-fastest ever rise up from the fifth tier to the top flight, equalling Wimbledon's rapid ascent between 1977 and 1986.

The match was notable for Luton captain Tom Lockyer suffering a worrying collapse just eight minutes in, but the Hatters overcame that shock and setback to take the lead through Jordan Clark midway through the first half.

Gustavo Hamer levelled things up for Coventry shortly after the hour mark to send the game to extra time, when Luton saw a goal ruled out by VAR in the 116th minute.

The final duly went to penalties, and both teams scored a perfect five out of five before Coventry's Fankaty Dabo ballooned his spot kick over the bar to hand Luton a 6-5 victory in the shootout.



27. Sheffield Wednesday produce greatest playoff comeback ever (May 18)

Sheffield Wednesday's Liam Palmer celebrates scoring their fourth goal on May 18, 2023© Reuters

Having spent a significant chunk of the League One regular season in the automatic promotion places, Sheffield Wednesday ended the campaign with a whopping 96 points - a tally high enough to have earned automatic promotion in any tier of every previous EFL season, and which would have won them the League One title last term.

However, in 2022-23 it was only good enough for third place, and the unpredictable and often unforgiving nature of the playoffs appeared to have bitten in the most brutal of ways when Darren Moore's side were hammered 4-0 in the first leg of their semi-final against Peterborough United - a team that had only snuck into the playoffs on the final day.

A place at Wembley seemed assured for Posh at the halfway stage of the tie considering no team in English Football League history had overcome a first-leg deficit of more than two goals in the playoffs before.

However, a truly remarkable night unfolded in the second leg at Hillsborough as Sheffield Wednesday rewrote the record books to produce the greatest playoff comeback of all time.

Two goals in the opening 25 minutes gave the hosts hope of pulling off the miraculous recovery, and a third 20 minutes from time saw the dream move even closer.

Peterborough held out against the onslaught until the final kick of normal time, when Liam Palmer struck in the 98th minute to make it 4-0 on the night and force extra time in the most dramatic fashion.

The drama was by no means over, though, and Peterborough threatened to spoil the unfolding party once again when they went back in front on aggregate in the 105th minute, only for Callum Paterson to net Wednesday's fifth of the night seven minutes later.

That ultimately forced penalties at the end of an unforgettable tie which finished 5-5 on aggregate, and in the shootout Peterborough's Dan Butler was the only man to falter from the spot before Jack Hunt converted the winner to complete one of the all-time great football comebacks.


26. Ireland win Six Nations Grand Slam (March 18)

Ireland players celebrate winning the Six Nations Championship and the Grand Slam with the trophies on March 18, 2023© Reuters

Ask most Irish rugby fans what would be their dream Six Nations day, and there would likely be four elements: 1) Winning the Grand Slam; 2) Doing it on home soil; 3) Doing it against England; and 4) Doing it on St Patrick's weekend.

All of those elements came together in March as Andy Farrell's all-conquering side produced arguably the greatest day in the nation's rugby history by winning the Grand Slam on home turf for the first time since 1948, and the first time ever in Dublin.

Add to that idyllic Irish picture their talismanic captain Johnny Sexton playing in his last-ever Six Nations match and becoming the tournament's all-time leading points-scorer, and it really was rugby nirvana for the class of 2023 - hailed by many as the greatest Irish team ever.

Things were not quite as straightforward as many had expected as a wounded England came to town off the back of a record home humiliation at the hands of France one week earlier, with Steve Borthwick's side showing the kind of reaction Ireland had warned people could be coming their way for much of the game.

However, a controversial Freddie Steward red card on the stroke of half time ultimately proved decisive, and Ireland raced clear with three tries in the final 20 minutes to run out eventual 29-16 winners and kick off an almighty party in Dublin.

It was only their fourth-ever Grand Slam, and their first for five years, but none of the previous triumphs provided a cocktail quite as perfect as this one.



25. Tigist Assefa smashes women's marathon world record (September 24)

Tigist Assefa celebrates breaking the women's marathon world record in Berlin on September 24, 2023.© Reuters

One year on from Eliud Kipchoge breaking the men's world marathon record in Berlin, Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa smashed the previous fastest women's mark in the same city.

The 26-year-old took more than two minutes off the previous record of 2:14.04 - set by Brigid Kosgei in Chicago in 2019 - to cross the line in 2:11.53, also becoming the first woman to run sub-two hours 12 minutes.

The win was her second in a row in Berlin, and the 13th time in total that the marathon world record had been broken in the German capital.



24. New Zealand crush Ireland dreams in classic quarter-final (October 14)

New Zealand's Ardie Savea celebrates scoring their second try on October 14, 2023© Reuters

As the world's number-one ranked team and reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions, the 2023 Rugby World Cup had been tipped as the time Ireland would finally progress past the quarter-finals and possibly go all the way in France.

The pool stage did little to dispel those prophecies, with Ireland remaining unbeaten despite being drawn alongside defending world champions South Africa and Scotland, who went into the tournament ranked as the fifth-best team on the planet.

The lopsided nature of the draw meant that another heavyweight showdown still separated them from the elusive semi-final spot though, with Pool A runners-up - three-time world champions New Zealand - standing in their way.

It was a blockbuster fit for the final, and it lived up to all expectations in terms of quality, but not in terms of the result for Ireland as their quarter-final curse continued.

The All Blacks overcame two spells with 14 men on the pitch to clinch an epic 28-24 victory, unforgettably holding out against a 37-phase attack in the dying stages of the game to record a momentous win and remind those that had written them off that they are always contenders at a World Cup.

For Ireland, it brought an end to a 17-match winning run - just one short of the all-time record - and left surely their greatest-ever crop of players having to digest another devastating quarter-final exit at a World Cup.

It also brought an end to the international career of Ireland great Johnny Sexton, whose legendary stint in the green number 10 came to an excruciating conclusion.



23. South Africa edge past France in epic Rugby World Cup quarter-final (October 15)

South Africa's Damian de Allende celebrates scoring their second try on October 15, 2023© Reuters

Twenty-four hours after Ireland and New Zealand had played out a classic quarter-final, the other Pool A vs. Pool B showdown promised another epic showdown between two of the world's best teams.

It was the host nation France - welcoming their talismanic skipper Antoine Dupont back after a fractured cheekbone and with very real ambitions of lifting the William Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time - against defending champions South Africa, who were not about to let go of the trophy without a fight.

If anything, the match raised the bar even higher than Ireland vs. New Zealand as the two sides played out one of the greatest rugby contests of all time.

The pace of the game was frenetic from the very first whistle and the first half in particular was arguably as good a 40 minutes as the sport has ever seen, with six tries scored and some jaw-dropping rugby being played.

Cheslin Kolbe was especially important at both ends, getting on the end of a grubber kick through to score a try having previously charged down a conversion to deny France two points.

That remarkable moment may well have been pivotal in the end as South Africa ended up winning by just one point - 29-28 - with the giant Eben Etzebeth battering his way over the line for the crucial score in the second half.

It was euphoria for the Springboks, but devastation for France in front of their home fans, while the neutrals could sit back and enjoy one of the all-time great rugby spectacles, one worthy of gracing the final.



22. Penrith Panthers pull off greatest Grand Final comeback to secure three-peat (October 1)

The 2023 NRL Grand Final was set up perfectly, with the best two teams making it to the showpiece event having ended the regular season separated only by points difference.

Penrith Panthers went into the match as two-time defending champions against a Brisbane Broncos side bidding for their first title since 2006, and the match itself did not disappoint.

The Broncos looked on course to dethrone Penrith when they led 24-8 after 56 minutes, with the holders looking short of ideas and knowing that the biggest deficit any side had ever recovered from to win the Grand Final was 14 points.

However, the Panthers summoned all of their championship nous to launch the greatest comeback in Grand Final history, scoring 18 unanswered points during a remarkable final 20 minutes to win 26-24.

Not only did the thrilling fightback secure the title once again, it also saw them become the first team for 40 years to secure the three-peat of winning three successive Premiership crowns.

One of the best-ever Grand Finals was lit up by one of the best-ever individual displays too as Nathan Cleary inspired his side to what had looked an unlikely victory in the final quarter, a performance which saw him become only the third player to win the Grand Final man of the match award more than once.



21. Chennai Super Kings win IPL title with final ball (May 29)

Fans had been made to wait an extra day for the 2023 IPL final due to heavy rain, but the showpiece was well worth the wait - at least for those of a Chennai Super Kings persuasion.

Defending champions Gujarat Titans had posted an impressive 214-4 in their innings, spearheaded by a brilliant 96 off 47 balls from 21-year-old Sai Sudharsan.

More rain followed to reduce Chennai's innings to 15 overs and their target to 171, as well as ensuring that the final did not finish until almost 2am local time.

The 75,000-strong crowd inside the stadium were rewarded royally for their patience, though, even if the man most of them had come to see - the iconic MS Dhoni - was bowled for a first-ball duck in what had been tipped to be the 41-year-old talisman's final match.

Chennai still needed 10 runs with only two balls of the innings remaining, but Ravindra Jadeja stepped up to the plate in remarkable fashion with a six followed by a four to seal a record-equalling fifth IPL crown for the Super Kings.



Read more of the countdown here

Top sporting moments of 2023: 100-91
Top sporting moments of 2023: 90-81
Top sporting moments of 2023: 80-71
Top sporting moments of 2023: 70-61
Top sporting moments of 2023: 60-51
Top sporting moments of 2023: 50-41
Top sporting moments of 2023: 40-31
Top sporting moments of 2023: 20-11
Top sporting moments of 2023: 10-1


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