All Blacks Win Rugby World Cup
October 23, 2011 § 2 Comments
From the 61,000 in Eden Park, to the hundreds of thousands in ‘fan zones’ around New Zealand, to the many overseas in places as far away as Antarctica, London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, America and many more, New Zealanders everywhere shouted, jumped up and down and hugged complete strangers as the All Blacks won the 2011 Rugby World Cup, defeating France 8-7.
It has been a long time coming. 24 years in fact, since David Kirk first held aloft the William Web Ellis trophy, at Eden Park in 1987.
Tonight, Richie McCaw stood on that same ground and lifted that trophy for all New Zealanders (and the rugby-watching world) to see.
But it wasn’t an easy game. It wasn’t the walk-over predicted in the New Zealand media and by much of the New Zealand public.
France, who had stumbled their way into the final – with one commentator claiming they were ‘worst team ever’ to make it to the last stage – stepped up when it counted.
France ‘bring it’ to the All Blacks
The French defiance started right at the beginning, walking forward and challenging the haka. And their defiance continued into the game.
They shut the All Blacks back-line down effectively – Jane, Dagg and Kahui who had run rampant against Australia a week before were unable to cut the lines and display the type of running rugby that the All Blacks are known for.
Their line-outs were superb, and were perhaps unlucky at scrum time, getting penalised at crucial moments.
And when captain Thierry Dusautoir scored under the posts with 15 minutes to play, it looked as though the French were going to cause what, arguably, would have been the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history.
The All Blacks made it hard for themselves too – with hero of the hour, Piri Weepu succumbing to pressure and missing two penalties and a conversion to the All Blacks only try, scored by prop Tony Woodcock in the 15th minute.
Unlikely hero – Donald
And the All Blacks unlucky streak with 1st 5’s continued with Aaron Cruden injuring his knee just 33 minutes into the game, forcing the Kiwis 4th choice No.1, Stephen Donald, ignored by the All Blacks selectors for almost a year, to come on.
And come on he did. Donald has been heavily criticised by many in New Zealand (myself included) for not performing in a black jersey.
Today, he proved all those nay-sayers wrong, cooling slotting what proved to be the match-winning points, a penalty early in the second half.
His running, when the French allowed it, was wonderful and his tactical kicking as good as the three players placed before him.
But in the end it was a team effort. As All Blacks captain Richie McCaw pointed out:
“When things happened we just kept getting up and kept getting up and trusting in your mate beside you. It was 30 guys and the management and everyone played their part.”
It may not have been a pretty win – epitomized by the All Blacks slogging the ball up the field for the last four minutes of the match – but it was a win.
A win they deserved. A win New Zealand deserved after a year of hardship – of mining disasters and earthquakes – and 24 years of rugby heart-break.
Today that pained was eased by a team in black jerseys fighting til the very end to be able to call themselves World Cup Champions.