New Zealand have become the first team to retain the William Web Ellis Cup with a 34-17 victory over the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham.
The All Blacks put on a masterclass in the first half, and managed to hold off a fightback from the Wallabies in the second 40 to seal the result.
From the opening of the match it was clear New Zealand were primed, tactically and physically, were at the peak of their game.
Dan Carter was magnificent, and controlled the game for all except a ten-minute period in the second half.
The Wallabies looked slightly off the pace in the first half in particular, and only really threatened the defensive line of New Zealand while there was a player off the field.
In the end, it was two tries to the Wallabies, three tries to the All Blacks, and a deserving team lifting the Rugby World Cup trophy.
The All Blacks had all the running of the play in the first stanza, and made the pressure count on the scoreboard by the end of the first 40 minutes.
Injuries to Kane Douglas and Matt Giteau certainly didn’t help Australia’s cause, with both players who had been so crucial to the Wallabies’ play at the World Cup out in the opening 20 minutes.
It took New Zealand some time to get the scoreboard ticking over, but when flyhalf Dan Carter knocked over the 29th minute penalty, they began to get in their groove.
With 70% of the possession, and all the field position, the pressure on the Wallabies was immense.
The play wasn’t always attractive, with the All Blacks intent on playing the game in the Wallabies half, and using the boot to get them there.
All the pressure eventually told, with Nehe Milner-Skudder crossing after the All Blacks used the ball in hand for a number of phases in a row.
Richie McCaw, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith had some tremendous interplay on a number of occasions through the moment.
Fittingly, it was McCaw who through the last pass to his winger for the try, and Carter converted to give the All Blacks a 16-3 lead at half time.
The Wallabies had barely been allowed to play any rugby in the first half, and it looked as though New Zealand were set to repeat the dose as they resumed the onslaught early in the second half.
A try to Ma’a Nonu was the result, and a 21-3 lead.
But a yellow card to Ben Smith looked to tip this Rugby World Cup final on its head.
With the Wallabies hot on attack, after a number of phases with ball in hand, fullback Smith grabbed the leg of Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell and tipped him on his head.
It was an ugly looking tackle, and the All Blacks paid for it dearly, with Australia crossing the line through David Pocock after the now famous Wallabies rolling maul.
Australia had needed the shot to their attacking play, and this was it.
Suddenly after 50 minutes of being shunted back in tackles, their forwards were now making it over the advantage line with some regularity.
Taking advantage of the lack of a fullback on the field, a few well-placed kicks managed to get the Wallabies into good field position, and a precision box kick from Will Genia put the ball in the hands of Bernard Foley for Australia, who offloaded to Tevita Kuridrani who crashed over for Australia’s second try.
Four points in it. 16 minutes to play.
Australia had plenty of chances after the try. Sustained pressure on the All Blacks defensive line meant they certainly had to work for the next 15 minutes.
But a drop goal from Carter with ten minutes to play, and a penalty to the same man two minutes later from the halfway line meant Australia had too much to do, and not enough time.
A breakout try after Australia had hammered the line to Beauden Barrett put the game to bed, with the margin finishing at 17 points.
There’s no doubt the All Blacks were deserving winners. Their speed of play, ferocity in contact and tactical nous saw them run out deserving winners.
The second half saw some fantastic running rugby played after a very testing opening 40.
In a testament to the astuteness of their performance, retiring All Black Dan Carter was awarded the man of the match award, in a fitting end to one of the greatest careers in rugby history.
Congratulations to the All Blacks, 2015 Rugby World Cup champions.