New Zealand 8 France 7
The last seven weeks had all been about building up to this game. Eighteen teams had fallen by the wayside, leaving the All Blacks on home soil to face Les Bleus. As rugby fans we could probably have not asked for more. The number one team in the world, according to both the Openside Flanker and the IRB, New Zealand, up against their old foes, France.
The game was always going to be a tight one, France had already showed their defensive tactics the previous week against Wales in the semi-final and New Zealand would have to keep it tight despite their explosive back line.
And that’s what we got, not a classic free-flowing game of rugby, but a grind-it-out style of match. Each group of forwards determined to exert their influence on the other before unleashing any back line moves. Strangely having been the New Zealand kicking saviour after Dan Carter’s exit from the tournament, Piri Weepu was not on form, missing a number of place kicks in the first half. Despite this New Zealand led at the half, 5-0, through a Tony Woodcock try. Perhaps the most important issue in the first half however what the injury to Aaron Cruden, New Zealands’s number 10, who was replaced by Stephen Donald, the fourth number 10 to be used by New Zealand in the World Cup.
Fortunately, Cruden’s injury was a non-issue as Donald played superbly, scoring a decisive penalty early in the second half to give the All Blacks an eight to nothing lead with 35 minutes to go. And then came probably the most nerve-racking 35 minutes of any All Blacks fan’s life as the French through everything at the All Blacks.
And within minutes of Donald’s penalty, the French captain, Thierry Dusautoir, crashed over the line to make the score 8 to 7 after Francois Trinh-Duc’s conversion. However the All Blacks hung on for the reminder of the half, with Trinh-Duc missing a long 50m penalty kick. Nail-biting is an understatement to describe the final few minutes of the game, but the All Blacks held on and became the new Rugby Union World Champions. Congratulations to them and hard luck to the French.