All Blacks deserved champs

New Zealand 8-7 France … Well, it does not come a lot tighter than that … This was the lowest-scoring RWC Final, surpassing the 18 points scored in 1991, the lowest winning score in a RWC Final, and the one-point margin is the lowest in RWC Final history, surpassing the three-point margins of 1995 and 2003.

And it was a one hell of a lot tighter than the “Kiwis by 22” prediction that I logged on SuperBru …

I suppose one should not really be surprised by the French anymore, but to lose two pool games, including one against Tonga, sneak past Wales because they were reduced to 14 men early in the game, and then compete to the point that many people thought they deserved to win in a World Cup final against the All Blacks at fortress Eden Park is beyond reasonable comprehension! Fairytale stuff really …

But in a World Cup final, especially in your own back yard, with 24 years having passed since your last sip from the coveted trophy, it’s all about how you handle the pressure. And the French upped that pressure by employing a ball in hand game that required the All Blacks to make their tackles. And tackle they did, but not before being made to look pretty ordinary against a side they had taken to the cleaners in their pool game a few weeks earlier.

On that day, though, they had Dan Carter keeping the scoreboard ticking over. And with Piri Weepu’s GPS malfunctioning on Sunday, the value of having a top class kicker was proved yet again. Not only does it keep the pressure on the opposition, but also, perhaps more importantly, takes the pressure to score tries off your own team.

Under this sort of pressure, the All Blacks suddenly looked less than invincible … And if referee Craig Joubert had been less lenient on the home side at the breakdown than he was, the French might indeed have won this final. Some of the more extreme people I follow on Twitter were likening Joubert’s performance to that of Bryce Lawrence in the Boks vs Aus quarter final, and while I think he let the All Blacks get away with a bit on the ground, I do not think it was in that league …

So while the All Blacks might not deserve to have won the game, they did, and there is no doubt in my mind that they deserve to be World Champions. New Zealand have been the best side in the world for a number of years, and in Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, they have two of the best rugby players to ever grace our planet. It’s fitting that they, Mils Muliaina and Graham Henry get to hang RWC winners medal in their bars.

Well done to the All Blacks for winning the World Cup, and well done to the people of New Zealand for hosting a truly memorable tournament. It was very special to have experienced the warm reception you gave all visitors – excluding the Aussies that is!

Key facts and figures from the final:

– New Zealand join Australia and South Africa as two-time RWC winners.

– New Zealand become the first team to win two RWCs on home soil.

– France remain the only team to have played in a RWC Final without winning one. Their three Final losses is a record.

– This was the lowest-scoring RWC Final, surpassing the 18 points scored in 1991.

– New Zealand’s eight points is the lowest winning score in a RWC Final.

– The one-point margin is the lowest in RWC Final history, surpassing the three-point margins of 1995 and 2003. It was also New Zealand’s first one-point victory in their 43rd RWC match.

– The five points scored in the first half were the fewest in a Rugby World Cup Final. It was also the first Final with only one scoring event in the first half.

– It was the first Final to have two replacements score points.

– Stephen Donald became the first player to make his Rugby World Cup debut in a Final.

– Jean Marc Doussain became the first player to make his Test debut in a RWC Final. At 20 years and 253 days, he was the third-youngest player to play a RWC Final.

– Brad Thorn, at 36 years and 262 days old, became the oldest player to win a RWC Final, surpassing England’s Jason Leonard who was 35 years and 100 days when his side defeated Australia at RWC 2003.

– Tony Woodcock was the second prop to score in a Rugby World Cup Final. Tony Daly scored the only try of the match in Australia’s win over England in 1991.

– It was Woodcock’s first try against a team other than Australia or South Africa, despite him having played against 16 Test teams.

– The opening score of the match was Woodcock’s try in the 15th minute. The RWC 1991 Final was the only Final to wait longer for its first score – Michael Lynagh’s 27th-minute penalty.

– Thierry Dusautoir was the second captain to score in a Rugby World Cup Final. David Kirk scored a try in New Zealand’s 1987 victory.

– Richie McCaw won his seventh RWC match as New Zealand captain, breaking Reuben Thorne’s All Blacks record.

– New Zealand won a RWC match, having scored the same number of tries as their opposition, for the first time.

– Dimitri Yachvili’s missed penalty was the 200th failed place kick at RWC 2011.

– Stephen Donald kicked New Zealand’s 300th point of Rugby World Cup 2011. They finished with 301.

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