FRANCE 7-8 NEW ZEALAND
Eden Park, Auckland - Sunday 23 October 2011
KO: 21:00 HT: 0-5 Att: 61,079
A generation had passed since New Zealand laid claim to the Webb Ellis Cup. 24 years of longing and heartache were finally quelled with All Black captain, Richie McCaw lifting the trophy again on the same hallowed ground of Eden Park as did David Kirk in 1987.
Following the final Maori call inviting France and New Zealand to the pitch, the anthems resounded throughout the stadium and history was about to made over the next 80 minutes of play, whichever team won. But first there was the small matter of the haka. Richie McCaw chose the kapa o pango over the traditional ka mate, and as the war dance began, France lined up in an arrowhead formation in their own 22, and advanced to half way across the line to accept the challenge. Amusingly, captain Thierry Dusautoir commented later,
“At one point we were so close to them that they wanted to kiss the New Zealanders but I told them to take it easy.”
Shamefully, just 2 days later the IRB shamed the spirit of rugby by fining the French NZ$4,900 [£2,500] for crossing the precious half way line in their acceptance of the challenge. Even the All Black management has spoken out against the fine.
The world waited with bated breath to see if the real Les Bleus had turned up - they had, albeit in their all white away strip, and they took the game to the All Blacks from the first all the way through to the final whistle. As a rugby nation, the French did themselves proud.
Under the supervision of South African Referee, Craig Joubert, Piri Weepu kicked off the match, the All Blacks lost their first lineout and France charged across halfway into Kiwi territory. It became apparent early on that Joubert would be overlooking what the All Blacks did at the breakdown, and so it was easier to simply accept it and move on.
Ball carrier Alexis Palisson was promptly pinged for holding on at the breakdown, followed by Parra for being offside, giving the All Blacks their first chance at scoring. Even though young Aaron Cruden had done a splendid job the week before, Piri Weepu had taken over the kicking mantle after the fall of Daniel Carter then Colin Slade, but his boot was off target throughout the match when facing the uprights.
By the 10th minute, France had 65% possession, had already strung together a string of phases, and were looking firmly in control. The referee stood and watched as McCaw played the ball right off his feet at the breakdown and overlooked it once again. And France was about to experience their first major loss. As Morgan Parra went in for the tackle on Ma’a Nonu, McCaw piled in first smacking Parra on the head followed by a knee to take him out. As play continued, Parra had to be replaced by Francois Trinh-Duc but labelled a blood injury so he was able to return.
France set up a lineout just inside the All Black 10m line, but the throw went long, Dusautoir held the ball just that second too long giving Weepu an excellent opportunity to set up a lineout 10m from the French tryline; the manœuvre was perfectly executed and it was prop, Tony Woodcock who caught the offload and scored. But again, Weepu could not find his mark and the All Blacks were 5 rather than 7 points ahead.
By the end of the first quarter, Parra returned to the field of play and Jean-Baptiste Poux was wrongly penalised for pulling down the scrum. The All Blacks forced their way across the French 10m line, but the defence from Les Bleus was strong, and they struggled to gain any further ground. Forced to play out wide, this tactic worked better setting them up with 22 lineout on the far side, but again Parra became a casualty and had to be replaced permanently.
Another penalty to the All Blacks in the 25th minute gave Weepu a third chance to right the wrongs so far; a simple kick just outside the French 22 to the right of centre went awry and rather than 13 points ahead, the homeside were only 5 points clear, and there the score remained for the rest of the half. But uneventful the last 15 minutes were not.
In the 29th minute, McCaw chased after the ball in the goal area, but Aurélien Rougerie denied him the try. France secured a 22 lineout which they won but William Servat made a handling error allowing the All Blacks to clear. Sam Whitelock stole the next French lineout, and then came the homeside’s loss. The curse of the New Zealand fly half hit again as third choice Aaron Cruden –who had performed admirably a week earlier against Australia in the semi final– collapsed as his knee was damaged and had to be assisted off the pitch, unable to put any weight on it.
Kiwis worldwide were about to be force fed humble pie as most maligned fly half, Stephen Donald was brought on as the fourth replacement number 10, making his world cup debut in the 33rd minute. Donald had been singled out as the entire cause of the All Blacks loss to Australia in 2010 in Hong Kong, giving the Wallabies the Bledisloe Cup, and had never been forgiven by the nation or the management, but now they were left with no choice.
From another 22 lineout in All Black territory, Trinh-Duc attempted a difficult drop goal from the 10m line, but it just fell to the right of the posts. And it was Trinh-Duc who made the break from his own 22 all the way to the All Blacks 22 when an ankle tap from Weepu broke his stride, and the ball was turned with 3 minutes to go. And after a little ping pong, it was Weepu that kick the ball to touch.
So far, both teams had matched each other at every turn, and the predominantly All Black-supporting full house at Eden Park was mightily appreciative. The only real surprise was the level of subterfuge that Richie McCaw was allowed to get away with by the referee, who could almost be accused of being the 23rd player on the New Zealand side. Many a rugby player has wanted to lay claim to McCaw’s invisibility cloak at breakdowns, and he is no doubt the master of the ‘clever’ tactics. But no blame can be laid at his or any All Black’s feet; this must lie solely with the referees who choose to ignore the infringements.
Not until the 41st minute was McCaw finally penalised for playing the ball on the ground off his feet, but the confusion on his face was likely from wondering how he had not got away with it yet again (!) Dimitri Yachvili attempted to get the scoreboard rolling for Les Bleus with a kick on the 22 from the touchline, but though ball headed in the right direction, it faded passed both uprights to leave them scoreless.
As the All Blacks charged into French territory, a new focus arose for the referees of high tackles from the Kiwis which continued throughout the second half. But referee and touch judges alike all chose to ignore these too. And in the 44th minute, Trinh-Duc forgot to roll away from the ruck and allowed Donald to silence each and every detractor. A perfect kick took the homeside 8-0 ahead, and suddenly the crowds were cheering for Donald, even though little did they know so early on that he had scored the winning penalty already.
From the restart, New Zealand attempted to clear the French out of their half with a high kick almost caught by Rougerie but knocked on, giving the All Blacks another chance. They forced play right back to half way before Nonu was unable to collect, Rougerie chipped forward and Trinh-Duc broke to the 22; Yachvili collected, via Maxime Médard, Rougerie took it up to 3m from the tryline before he was forced to recycle. Taking the ball out wide, Servat took it just as close to the line before Yachvili orchestrated his troops and offloaded to Trinh-Duc to Rougerie to Dusautoir who hurled the ball against the post for the try, with All Blacks strewn in his wake. Trinh-Duc converted from in front of the posts, and the French were within 1 point of the opposition.
This was to be the final score, but there was still a little over half an hour to go. Both sides began to usher in the changes from the reserves bench, and Weepu was promptly replaced following an appalling kick at the restart by Andy Ellis.
The last 30 minutes saw the All Blacks and Les Bleus penetrate opposition territory, but defence on both sides held firm, each forcing the other back repeatedly. Balls were turned over, lineouts were stolen, tackles were made and missed, penalties were conceded but neither team could add another point. The 64th minute saw Andrew Hore stand up in the scrum on half way to concede a vital penalty, but it was a kick too far for Trinh-Duc.
Though both sides ventured into the other’s territory, neither was allowed to get close enough to the 22 to inflict any damage. Only Adam Thomson, Ben Franks and Fulgence Ouedraogo did not get onto the paddock, and Jean Marc Doussain made his Rugby World Cup debut 4 minutes from time.
The last few minutes, the All Blacks rightly just took their time to run down the clock. The frustration overwhelmed Dimitri Szarzewski and at the ruck on half way, he ran around completely offside and handed the New Zealanders the final penalty as the clock just over 80 minutes.
The All Blacks broke the 24 year hoodoo and rightfully claimed the championship title.
French captain Thierry Dusautoir paid fitting tribute to the 2011 World Champions, and then proceeded to pick up Man of the Match, promptly followed 24 hours later by the IRB Player of the Year Award.
Congratulations New Zealand! We’ll see you at Twickers in 4 years time!
15 Maxime Médard 14 Vincent Clerc 13 Aurélien Rougerie 12 Maxime Mermoz 11 Alexis Palisson 10 Morgan Parra 9 Dimitri Yachvili 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux 2 William Servat 3 Nicolas Mas 4 Pascal Pape 5 Lionel Nallet 6 THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (C) 7 Julien Bonnaire 8 Imanol Harinordoquy BENCH: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski 17 Fabien Barcella 18 Julien Pierre 19 Fulgence Oudraogo 20 Jean Marc Doussain 21 Francois Trinh-Duc 22 Damien Traille
SCORERS T: Dusautoir P: Trinh-Duc
15 Israel Dagg 14 Cory Jane 13 Conrad Smith 12 Ma’a Nonu 11 Richard Kahui 10 Aaron Cruden 9 Piri Weepu 1 Tony Woodcock 2 Keven Mealamu 3 Owen Franks 4 Brad Thorn 5 Samuel Whitelock 6 Jerome Kaino 7 RICHIE MCCAW (C) 8 Kieran Read BENCH: 16 Andrew Hore 17 Ben Franks 18 Ali Williams 19 Adam Thomson 20 Andy Ellis 21 Stephen Donald 22 Sonny Bill Williams
SCORERS T: Woodcock P: Donald