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New Zealand are World Champions
All Blacks edge thrilling Final
Posted Oct 24, 2011 by Chris White
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In one of the best World Cup’s off all time, it was the hosts New Zealand who come away with the Webb Ellis Trophy, beating France 8-7 in a thrilling final in Auckland.
With the teams walking out into a cauldron at Eden Park with a tremendous atmosphere, the New Zealand Haka was rather fitting of the occasion. The All Blacks were the pre-tournament favourites and they were rightly the bookies’ choice to get their hands on the trophy out of the final pairing, with the French being traditionally unpredictable on the world stage. Losing to Tonga in the Pool stage, but bouncing back to beat England and then Wales in the knock out stage left many wondering whether it could be their year after all.
It looked like the pressure might have got to the hosts early on with Piri Weepu missing an early penalty by a substantial margin to the left of the posts. The All Blacks didn’t have to wait long to get on the scoreboard, however, as French skipper Thierry Dusautoir was penalised for holding on to the ball, giving New Zealand the chance to kick for touch. From just five metres out, Jerome Kaino tapped down the resulting line-out and prop Tony Woodcock powered his way over to score the opening try of the final, with Weepu missing the conversion.
That try was the only score of the first half in what became a nervous and scrappy affair, as you would expect with a World Cup final, with France now having to force the issue to get back into the match after the break.
Francois Trinh-Duc, who replaced the injured Morgan Parra, kicked off the second half, and the French soon had a chance to get onto the scoreboard, with Richie McCaw penalised for hands in the ruck. Dimitri Yachvili stepped up but his long-range effort dipped agonizingly underneath the cross bar.
It was the All Blacks who did score the first points of the second half, moving into an 8-0 lead thanks to a 46th minute penalty from Stephen Donald, meaning the French needed an instant reaction. In the true drama associated with the drama of a World Cup Final, they did just that with skipper Dusautoir touching down next to the uprights, with Trinh-Duc popping over the extras to close the gap to just one point at 8-7.
The French were then gifted an opportunity to take a shock lead when Ali Williams was penalised for hands in the ruck but this time Trinh-Duc missed a relatively simple penalty from dead centre, which would have set up a grandstand final quarter.
As much as they banged on the door, the French just couldn’t get through the New Zealand defence, eventually conceding a penalty with ten seconds left on the clock. The All Blacks kicked to touch and the celebrations could start when referee Joubert blew his whistle for the final time, bringing the curtain down on the 2011 Rugby World Cup, with Richie McCaw given the honour of leading his team up the steps to raise the Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time in 24 years, with New Zealand crowned World Champions.
New Zealand coach Graham Henry was understandably thrilled afterwards. “I’m so proud to be a New Zealander standing here,” he said. Richie and the boys hanging in there to win is superb and something we’ve dreamed of for a while.”
McCaw was equally delighted with the triumph, especially considering the loss of Dan Carter through injury. “To lose a guy like Dan is very difficult, but Stephen Donald stepped up big time. I’m so proud of everyone, we couldn’t have been under more pressure.”
Defeated French captain Thierry Dusautoir could only manage a few words after the gut-wrenching defeat, but the skipper did say that he was “very proud of my boys. We proved a lot of people wrong today but it’s a real pity we couldn’t find just one more win.”