Principality Stadium: 20 memorable sporting moments in 20 years

Fans celebrate a Wales rugby win at the Principality Stadium

The Principality Stadium is 20 years old on 26 June 2019.

The arena, initially named the Millennium Stadium, has staged Six Nations Grand Slam showdowns, FA Cup finals, Rugby League Challenge Cup finals, Football League play-offs, World title boxing bouts, the 1999 Rugby World Cup final and the 2017 Champions League final.

The first event in the 2012 London Olympics took place there - a women's football match between Team GB and New Zealand.

The stadium has hosted some of the planet's top sporting stars, as well as musical acts from the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen to Madonna and Ed Sheeran.

Here we recount 20 of the greatest sporting moments at Wales' iconic national stadium.

Opening day glory - Wales beat the Boks

Wales celebrate their first win against South Africa in the first game at the Millennium Stadium
Gareth Thomas and Scott Quinnell celebrate Wales' victory in the first game at the unfinished stadium in 1999

In the beginning there was no roof as 27,000 fans and various construction workers watched Wales beat South Africa for the first time in the opening game at a half-finished stadium.

It was an historic homecoming for Graham Henry's team after more than two years in exile during the reconstruction.

Fly-half Neil Jenkins scored the first points and Mark Taylor scored the first try.

It was a timely victory for Wales with the World Cup later that year, but they had lost all momentum come the autumn.

Heavyweight attraction - October 2017 and March 2018

Anthony Joshua connects with a big right-hand punch on the chin of Carlos Takam
Carlos Takam made Anthony Joshua work hard for his win at the Principality Stadium

Anthony Joshua was not the first heavyweight to fight in Cardiff but he's among the biggest in terms of physical presence and drawing power.

Not since Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis clashed had there been such a buzz about a heavyweight contest in the Welsh capital.

Joshua stopped Carlos Takam in front of an expectant crowd and the following March also beat Joseph Parker at a venue he describes as his "boxing home."

Olympics comes to Wales - summer 2012

Steph Houghton is surrounded by Team GB team-mates after scoring against New Zealand
Steph Houghton's goal was the first scored by the GB women's team in the history of the Olympics

The London 2012 Olympics actually started in Cardiff.

Before James Bond and the Queen had parachuted into the Olympic Stadium, Team GB's women's football team had beaten New Zealand 1-0 thanks to Steph Houghton's goal.

Other notable goal scorers in Cardiff during the tournament included Brazil's Marta and, in the men's tournament, Aaron Ramsey, Neymar and a then unknown Mohamed Salah.

The GB men's team saw their medal hopes ended in Cardiff when they lost to South Korea on penalties in the quarter-finals.

Waltzing Wallabies - 6 November 1999

John Eales celebrates winning the 1999 Rugby World Cup
Wallaby legend John Eales is embraced by team-mates after leading them to victory in the 1999 World Cup final

In a stadium built to stage the World Cup, Australia crushed France 35-12 in the final, becoming the first country to win the trophy twice.

Full-back Matt Burke scored 25 points in a stadium which would normally resound with "Hymns and Arias" but on this day rocked to the sound of "Waltzing Matilda" as the Wallabies celebrated.

Owen's late show - 12 May 2001

Michael Owen and Lee Dixon
Michael Owen struck a double to stun Arsenal in the 2001 FA Cup final

The Millennium Stadium hosted six FA Cup finals between 2001 and 2006 while Wembley Stadium was rebuilt.

It proved a happy hunting ground for Liverpool, starting with this smash-and-grab raid against the Gunners.

Arsenal dominated most of the game and led 1-0 through Freddie Ljungberg, but Michael Owen scored twice in the last eight minutes to complete a thrilling comeback.

Wales stun the Azzurri - 16 October 2002

Wales team v Italy 2002
Gary Speed captained Wales to a famous victory over Italy in the Euro 2004 qualifier

Mark Hughes' Wales team hit new heights as they recorded a memorable victory over the mighty Italy.

A fervent crowd, fired up by performances from the Manic Street Preachers and Bryn Terfel, saw Wales win 2-1.

Simon Davies opened the scoring before Alessandro Del Piero levelled, but Craig Bellamy's winner ensured Wales beat a top footballing nation in a competitive game for the first time in 11 years.

They finished runners-up in the group but hopes of making a first major championship since 1958 were dashed by Russia in the play-offs.

Charge downs and Grand Slams - 19 March 2005

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Wales v Ireland classics: Gethin Jenkins 2005

Two years after an embarrassing wooden spoon, Wales celebrated their first Grand Slam since 1978 with a 32-20 victory over Ireland.

With Mike Ruddock at the helm, Wales played with an adventurous style and reaped the rewards.

They took the lead through prop Gethin Jenkins, a future captain who would become Wales' most-capped player before a famous try from full-back Kevin Morgan.

Wales would also seal Grand Slams in Cardiff in 2008 and 2012, but 2005 in the sunshine is perhaps the most fondly remembered.

A rugby league cracker - 27 August 2005

Richard Whiting of Hull FC celebrates
Richard Whiting celebrates scoring for Hull FC against Leeds in 2005 in Cardiff

Eight tries and a last-minute conversion to clinch victory - there have been few, if any, matches more dramatic at the stadium than Hull's Rugby League Challenge Cup win against Leeds.

Leeds, the overwhelming favourites, were beaten 25-24 in one of the most memorable finals ever.

It was played in a city where only a decade earlier rugby league was the unmentionable "other" code played up north which took many of Wales' best rugby union players.

By 2005 that particular cold war had thawed and tens of thousands of fans gave the Welsh capital a Yorkshire accent for the weekend.

'The Gerrard final' - 13 May 2006

The last FA Cup final in Cardiff - like the first - was a story of a Liverpool comeback.

West Ham led 2-0 and 3-2 and had one hand on the trophy until Steven Gerrard's stunning 90th-minute strike from 35 yards forced extra-time.

Liverpool went on to triumph on penalties with Dietmar Hamann, Gerrard and John Arne Riise scoring from the spot as goalkeeper Pepe Reina proved the hero.

Grey day for the All Blacks - 6 October 2007

New Zealand haka in 2007
New Zealand were almost unrecognisable in their second grey strip in 2007 against France in Cardiff

Playing in Cardiff despite being tournament hosts, France were given little chance in this World Cup quarter-final against hot favourites New Zealand.

But after facing the haka, they fought back from 13-0 behind to win 20-18.

Kiwi coach Graham Henry called it the "Train Crash at Cardiff", as the All Blacks failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time in the tournament's history.

Calzaghe's crowning moment - 3 November 2007

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'The Kessler fight was a dream come true'

It was a night and a fight that secured Joe Calzaghe's place among the greats of British boxing.

The Welshman, then 35, gave the performance of a lifetime in his 44th outing, against Denmark's Mikkel Kessler, who Calzaghe says was his toughest opponent.

Both fighters were undefeated in a combined 82 bouts. Calzaghe held two super middleweight titles, Kessler had the others in a rare unification battle.

A crowd of 50,000 meant this was a far cry from the 2,800-capacity Wales National Ice Rink where Calzaghe had fought several opponents as the Welsh boxer sealed a unanimous points decision.

Staring down the haka - 22 November 2008

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Wales v New Zealand: Staring down the haka in 2008

As sporting theatre goes, Wales staring down the New Zealand haka in 2008 takes some beating.

The teams stood eye to eye for what seemed an eternity before referee Jonathan Kaplan finally convinced them to take their starting places.

The hosts may have won the stand-off but the 29-9 defeat that followed extended their long wait for a victory over the All Blacks that stretches back to 1953.

Ireland end decades of hurt - 21 March 2009

Brian O'Driscoll lifts the Six Nations trophy as Ireland win the Grand Slam
In 2009, Ireland celebrated their first Grand Slam since 1948

After 61 years of waiting, Ireland's bid for a Grand Slam came down to the last two seconds and the last two metres.

An Irish team featuring the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara had promised much over the years, but failed to deliver when it mattered.

That changed on a dramatic day in Cardiff. Wales were on course for the Triple Crown thanks to Stephen Jones' drop goal with five minutes to go, but O'Gara responded in kind to put his side on top of the world.

Rugby union's first shootout - 3 May 2009

Martyn Williams (left) is consoled by Leicester coach Richard Cockerill after his missed kick
Martyn Williams (left) is consoled by Leicester coach Richard Cockerill after his missed kick

Professional rugby's first and so far only penalty shootout is one Wales legend Martyn Williams will want to forget.

Leicester and Cardiff Blues drew 26-26 in their Heineken Cup semi-final and could not be separated by extra time.

Cue a penalty shootout in front of the posts on the 22.

The specialist kickers safely navigated their shots at goal. Tigers' Johne Murphy was the first to miss, but Tom James was unable to take advantage.

With options running out in sudden death, flanker Williams - who once dropped a goal for Wales - stepped forward confidently.

But a wild hook was the cruellest of blows and allowed Jordan Crane to win it for Leicester.

The greatest comeback? - 13 February 2010

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Six of the Best: Wal v Sco 2010

Wales were 10 points adrift of Scotland in the 76th minute and staring down the barrel of defeat, and some less optimistic home fans had left the stadium early.

In a breathless finale, Wales went through phase after phase until Scotland finally ran out of defenders and Shane Williams darted under the posts to clinch a dramatic win.

A Leinster spectacular - 21 May 2011

Johnny Sexton celebrates his try against Northampton
Johnny Sexton scored two tries, three conversions and four penalties as Leinster beat Northampton

Leinster were crowned European champions for the second time in three years after one of the great Heineken Cup comebacks.

It wasn't so much about the points deficit, but the way in which they did it. Northampton were within sight of causing an upset at the interval, when they led 22-6.

Whatever coach Joe Schmidt said to Leinster prompted a devastating blitz of 27 unanswered points inside 26 minutes to overrun the Saints.

England's chastening finale - 16 March 2013

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Six Nations 2013 highlights: Wales 30-3 England

England arrived chasing a first Grand Slam in a decade, but they left shell-shocked.

Ten of Stuart Lancaster's starting side had never played at the stadium and they were greeted by an electric atmosphere.

Wales, coached by Rob Howley with Warren Gatland on Lions duty, had a chance to snatch the title, but needed a winning margin of at least seven points.

Carried on a wave of noise and elation, Wales romped to a 30-3 victory.

A stand-off in the tunnel - 6 February 2015

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Six Nations 2015: Wales v England tunnel standoff

As if Wales v England on a Friday night in Cardiff was not dramatic enough, "tunnelgate" only added to the tension.

The stadium was drenched in darkness with all eyes on the light of the tunnel - but no players emerged.

Knowing Wales enjoyed letting their opponents stew in a cauldron of noise long before making their appearance, England captain Chris Robshaw stood his ground and waited, and waited with the game delayed by six minutes.

The pre-match psychology paid dividends as England won the game 21-16.

Bale's Real Madrid crush Juventus - 3 June 2017

Ronaldo celebrates a goal during the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff
Winners' seal of approval... Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in 2017

The national stadium was always intended to attract world-class sport to Cardiff and they don't come bigger than the Uefa Champions League final.

Despite his homecoming, Gareth Bale played only a bit-part as a second half substitute as Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to see Real on their way to a 4-1 win and a 12th European title.

Grand Slam again - 16 March 2019

Wales lift the 2019 Six Nations Championship trophy
Wales' fourth Grand Slam in 14 years sparked a huge party in Cardiff

Here's a fact to ponder. The Principality Stadium has already staged more Grand Slam victories for Wales than the National Ground which it replaced.

The "golden era" of the 1970s saw Wales clinch three clean sweeps in the old Five Nations, but only two of those - in 1976 and 1978 - saw the final match played in Cardiff. The 1971 Slam was achieved the hard way in Paris.

When coach Warren Gatland's final Six Nations game in charge saw Wales overpower Ireland 25-7, the victory clinched a fourth Grand Slam in 14 years.

As far as celebrations to mark 20th birthdays go, this party in the rain takes a lot of beating.

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