There’s now no doubt whatsoever, Richie McCaw’s All Blacks are the best rugby team on the planet following their 34-17 World Cup final defeat of the Wallabies at Twickenham early this morning.
There’s also no doubt Dan Carter is the best rugby international and must be voted the best footballer of the year.
And while salutes are being handed out, All Black coach Steve Hansen deserves special mention for his tactics that kept the Wallabies under enormous pressure from the kick-off, and kept play as far away as possible from the crack Wallaby backrow of David Pocock, Michael Hooper, and Scott Fardy.
In short, the All Blacks were clinical, ruthless, and relentless as they threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the men in gold.
To the Wallabies credit there was no white towel thrown into the ring.
Leading 16-3 at the break, Ma’a Nonu did one of his brilliant searching runs that led to a superb individual try and a 21-3 All Black lead, after The All Blacks had dominated first half possession with 70 per cent.
Wallabies in the past would have turned it up.
But this Wallaby squad is made of much sterner stuff. They replied with 14 unanswered points thanks to converted tries to Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani to have a sniff at 21-17 with 17 minutes to go.
Step up to the plate that man Dan Carter.
From 45 metres out in centre field Carter calmly slotted a drop goal for a 24-17 lead, then landed a 49-metre penalty for 27-17.
That would have been a fairly accurate scoreline the way the game was played, but the All Blacks put the knife in when Drew Mitchell lost possession in the All Black half.
Within six seconds Beauden Barrett had followed through an All Black clearance, and won the race for the ball to dive over on the hooter for a converted try.
So 34-17 was the final score, and the All Blacks had set two records – the first to win three Rugby World Cups, and the first to safely defend.
Class of their depth was the key to the All Blacks success, with two bench moves in the second half best proving the point.
No more obvious than when Sonny Bill Williams came on for Conrad Smith after the break. Smith and Nonu were playing their 62nd international as a centre combination, but the All Blacks lost nothing by bringing on Williams and his brilliant off-loading,
Same with Barrett replacing fullback Ben Smith, who was lucky to stay on the field after lifting Mitchell’s leg above the horizontal.
It should have been an automatic red, but referee Nigel Owens decided otherwise. To even the score, Sekope Kepu could also have been red carded for two head highs, but was only penalised.
There were many other Owens decisions that defied description, especially three that were critical in the four minutes leading into the break.
Missing a blatant forward pass, an offside, and a knock on led to 10 precious points being scored by the All Blacks when it looked as though they were going to lead 6-3.
But as no Wallabies, nor Michael Cheika, have lodged a public complaint, those errors had to be mentioned as they had a dramatic impact on the result.
The reason why there was no complaints from the Wallabies was best explained by Cheika.
“We have a no excuse mentality, that’s the way we play.”
So Dan Carter was rightfully man of the match, Richie McCaw dodged the question of retirement with a smile, and what was the best possible advertisement for the 15-man code, both camps mingled freely shaking hands after the presentation, showing what mutual respect for one another really means.
It was left to goal-kicking flyhalf Bernard Foley to best describe how the Wallabies felt.
“We are gutted”.