New Zealand reached the promise land in Auckland this morning after they ended 24 years of pain by beating France 8-7 to lift the Rugby World Cup.
In a game that was as tense as can be remembered Riche McCaw and his All Black troops crossed the line narrowly in front having withstood a barrage of attacks from France in the last quarter of the game.
France started the game brightly and put to bed any notions that this would be a cake walk for the host side. They ran hard and fast at New Zealand and put it up to New Zealand. France did suffer a blow when fly half Morgan Parra had to leave the field after a nasty collision with All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu.
With Parra off New Zealand got the first score of the game after a beautiful training set piece off the scrum, deep in the French 22, put Woodcock through the gap to crash over to send the majority of the fans in Eden Park into raptures.
New Zealand sensed blood and had their most productive phase of the game after that try. Only a combination of huge French defence and the wayward boot of All Blacks scrum half Piri Weepu kept France within touching distance as New Zealand went in 5-0 to the good at half time.
France came out much the better team in the opening blows of the second half. Captain
Thierry Dusautoir, who was outstanding all game,led the fight back as France turned the screw on New Zealand.
They came right back into the game after a criminal chip by Weepu was intercepted and after good hands and quick ball it was Dusautoir who scored to make it a one point game.
That try put France on the front foot as New Zealand began to go into their collective shell as the pressure began to tell. France spent most of the second half camped in the All Blacks half, but they were met at every breakdown by a fierce black wall. One gets the feeling that France stayed on the pitch for another hour they wouldn’t have scored.
In the end it was New Zealand and McCaw that held on and a nation who has given so much to world rugby are now world champions. Richly deserved.
New Zealand: Dagg; Jane, Smith, Nonu, Kahui; Cruden, Weepu; Woodcock, Mealamu, O Franks; Thorn, Whitelock; Kaino, McCaw, Read. Replacements: S. Williams for Nonu (76), Donald for Cruden (34), Ellis for Weepu (49), Hore for Mealamu (49), A. Williams for Whitelock (49). Not Used: B. Franks, Thomson.
France: Medard; Clerc, Rougerie, Mermoz, Palisson; Parra, Yachvili; Poux, Servat, Mas; Pape, Nallet, Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Harinordoquy. Replacements: Traille for Clerc (46), Trinh-Duc for Parra (23), Doussain for Yachvili (76), Barcella for Poux (65), Szarzewski for Servat (65), Pierre for Pape (69). Not Used: Ouedraogo.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).