The All Blacks made history on Saturday evening securing a third Rugby World Cup in an exciting final against arch-rivals Australia. The Kiwis also became the first team to ever defend a World Cup.
The All Blacks started as expected, with power and precision in all aspects of their play, and the first points of the match took just eight minutes to arrive. Dan Carter sent a penalty through the posts.
Australia replied quickly, though, after a testing opening, with Bernard Foley drawing the scores level on 14 minutes. But the men in black increased the pressure in the opening exchanges, and eventually it told.
Carter added six more points with a further two penalties before the first try of the match arrived. Conrad Smith offloaded to Aaron Smith who in turn found Richie McCaw and the captain’s pass out wide for winger Nehe Milner-Skudder allowed him to dive over the line.
New Zealand’s 16 first-half points, following a successful Carter conversion, were the most ever scored by one team in the opening period of a World Cup final. No team behind at half-time had ever gone on to win the final – not a good omen for the Wallabies.
Australia fight back
Australia’s already difficult task became more so just minutes into the second half. Sonny Bill Williams did superbly to keep the ball alive before veteran Ma’a Nonu stormed through and over the line for five more points. Carter’s conversion was lacking this time, as the All Blacks took a commanding 21-3 lead.
The Australians, though, showed that they should never be written off. After the first yellow card ever in a World Cup final, Ben Smith was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. That gave Australia the opportunity to claw back into the game.
David Pocock’s immediate try brought the crowd at Twickenham alive. Foley’s conversion was perfect but the Wallabies knew another try was needed to give a dramatic comeback any hope.
With 15 minutes to play Australia got theur second wind. Will Genia’s kick forward was pin point and outside-centre Tevita Kuridani collected the ball to score. Foley added another two points. The All Blacks’ lead was down to 21-17 .
Australia were within shouting distance, but New Zealand were about to prove why the world’s best team play in black.
Into the history books
Having seen off South Aftrica in the semifinals with an audacious drop-goal, Dan Carter repeated that trick against the Aussies. His effort gave the All Blacks a seven-point cushion.
Another Carter penalty extended the Kiwis lead to ten points before superb work from Ben Smith sent Beaden Barrett through to secure the win with a late try. Carter’s conversion completed the 34-17 scoreline. In the end, it was a convincing win for the record champions.
New Zealand thus became the first team to win three World Cups and to defend that title. When asked on the pitch, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw refused to say whether this would be his last game.
“We said four years ago that winning a World Cup Final at Twickenham was the end goal and we have done it,” McCaw told the press after the match. “I am so proud.”
New Zealand can now look ahead to the next World Cup, which will take place in Japan in 2019.