History turned Black at Twickenham as New Zealand, led by an inspired Dan Carter, became the first ever team to win back-to-back World Cups, the first side to lift the Webb Ellis trophy three times and the first side to defeat the Wallabies on British soil in a Rugby World Cup.
It was not the cakewalk many expected when the Wallabies went 21-3 down after 43 mins, as they punched back brilliantly in the second half with tries from Pocock and Kuridrani, but just as the Wallabies were looking for a miracle from ten points behind and just minutes left, Beauden Barrett streaked through to score the try that put the result beyond doubt. You have to acknowledge brilliance when it presents itself.
Fitting farewells – With this game balanced on a knife-edge, the All Blacks’ senior players stood up. Carter had been cruelly robbed of the chance to play at the sharp end of World Cups before but had no problem digging out a 45m drop-goal and a long-range penalty when the pressure was on, to cement the foundations for this win. With Jerome Kaino, Ma’a Nonu, Richie McCaw and even Keven Mealamu putting their bodies on the line, they got over the line when they had to.
Aussie grit – After 50 minutes and a second All Black try, it looked like the Kiwis could run away with things. But the Wallabies roared back, with a yellow card for Ben Smith and a David Pocock try swinging the momentum of the game. Their numbers advantage was made to count just after the hour as a cute chip ahead was collected by Bernard Foley who fed Tevita Kuridrani as he screamed across the turf towards a breathtaking try.
All Black continuity – The opening try for Nehe Milner-Skudder was created as Conrad Smith ran into a gaping hole, flicked to Aaron Smith and there was the sweetest of links as Smith hit Richie McCaw and he zipped it out to Milner-Skudder. But there were instances throughout the game. A Sonny Bill Williams basketball-style offload also allowed Ma’a Nonu to tear away for a memorable score.
The Red Arrows – Before the anthems, as flames licked the afternoon sky and the World Cup soundtrack swelled, there was a fly-by from the famous pilots, streaming red, white and blue smoke behind them. Some things are just timelessly cool…
The fans – The crowds have been made this World Cup, with over 2.4m fans coming to watch game and this final had all the atmosphere you could possibly want. It was colourful, uplifting and a sign of a job well done by the organisers, England 2015.
Aussie lineouts – In a World Cup final, you cannot forsake golden opportunities to keep hold of the ball, but at the start of the game the Wallabies were ropey – even conceding a penalty for pushing down an opposition jumper’s arm – and eventually had one nicked too.
Bending Owens’s ear – Before the 20 minute mark Aussie captain Stephen Moore had to be told by referee Nigel Owens to stop talking to him. Even before that Richie McCaw was told to stop his No 9, Aaron Smith, yapping.
Ben Smith’s rare lapse of concentration – With the All Blacks in full-control, at 21-3 up, the usually error-free Ben Smith lifted Drew Mitchell at a ruck above the horizontal. With the crowd baying, Nigel Owens changed a penalty decision to a yellow and Smith trudged off. It allowed the Wallabies a way back into the game, where the scored 14 points without a response. Fortunately it didn’t cost the All Blacks the game.
17 – The number of tackles missed by the Wallabies in the first half.
9 – New Zealand had not conceded two tries in their last nine World Cup matches.
501 – The number of metres New Zealand made with ball in hand.
6 – The number of penalties Australia conceded in their own half, three times as many as New Zealand.
New Zealand: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder (B Barrett 65), C Smith (SB Williams 40), M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith (T Kerr-Barlow 71); J Moody (B Franks 58), D Coles (K Mealamu 65), O Franks (C Faumuina 54), B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino (V Vito 71), R McCaw (capt), K Read.
Tries (3): Milner-Skudder, Nonu, Barrett. Cons: Carter 2. Pens: Carter 4. DG: Carter.
Yellow card: B Smith (51)
Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, M Giteau (K Beale 26), D Mitchell (M Toomua 65-71) ; B Foley, W Genia (N Phipps 70); S Sio (J Slipper 58), S Moore (capt, T Polota-Nau 55), S Kepu (G Holmes 58), K Douglas (D Mumm 15), R Simmons, S Fardy (B McCalman 60), M Hooper, D Pocock.
Tries (2): Pocock, Kuridrani. Con: Foley. Pen: Foley.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Man of the Match: Dan Carter