You would have been crazy to bet against them, but New Zealand has won its second Rugby World Cup victory, holding out France in the final to win 8-7.
The most amazing thing about last night’s final, which was played in front up a full house at Auckland’s Eden Park (not to mention every pub, hotel and home in all of New Zealand) was that France not only challenged the All Blacks, but actually outplayed them in the second half. Les Bleus had the bulk of possession and territory, played attractive running rugby with a minimum of errors, and honestly looked like a chance to beat the kiwis.
But in the end, the class of the All Blacks showed. Down to their fourth choice five-eighth after losing Aaron Cruden to a knee injury in the first half, the New Zealanders proved just how much depth they have when Stephen Donald kicked what would become the winning penalty goal early in the second half.
The French saved their best match for the final, appearing to be a completely different side to the team who lost to Tonga in the pool stages. But it wasn’t enough for the three time finalists, who will have to wait another four years before they can try to lift the trophy again.
And in case anyone was wondering, the Wallabies claimed victory over Wales in the playoff for third, but at the expense of Quade Cooper, who injured his knee 22 minutes in and will be sidelined for six months. Kurtley Beale also left injured in the seventh minute, which forced a change of tactics from the Australians, who ended up winning 21-18.