Rugby Rugby

World Cup bliss for All Blacks

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand, October 23 – New Zealand ended 24 years of misery when they edged France 8-7 to win the Rugby World Cup for a second time here on Sunday.

The All Blacks, who also won the inaugural 1987 tournament, beating the French on home soil in that final too, also at Eden Park, were made to work hard by a ‘Les Bleus’ team that poured scorn on the view of many pundits that they were the worst side to have ever made a World Cup final.

Veteran prop Tony Woodcock scored the All Blacks’ sole try, with replacement fly-half Stephen Donald hitting a second-half penalty as first-choice kicker Piri Weepu let eight points go begging.

France, guilty of playing too much in their own half, hit back with a try from inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir converted by Francois Trinh-Duc, but it was not enough against a New Zealand side that offered up a tough-as-teak defence.

Victory was especially sweet for All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and coach Graham Henry, who both held their respective roles when New Zealand suffered a crushing quarter-final loss to France in Cardiff four years ago.

“It’s hard to describe,” said McCaw. I’m absolutely shagged (worn out). The courage, what the guys put in out there, we dug deeper than we ever have before, it’s hard to let it really sink in.

“I’m just so proud of every single one of the guys. We couldn’t have been under more pressure there at times but we stuck to our guns and got there in the end.

“You’ve got to be warriors to win this and keep getting up and keep getting up, believing in your mate beside you, trusting him to do his job and making sure you do yours. All 30 guys, plus the management, everyone did their part.

“The people round New Zealand have given this team so much this past six weeks, it’s great to repay them.

“No-one can take this away from this group, they are tough men and I think the whole country should be proud of every single one of them.”

An emotional Henry added: “Marvellous. The people have been have been outstanding in support of the team and the Rugby World Cup.

“I’m so proud to be a New Zealander standing here.

“There was a bit of turmoil up there in the coaching box, but Richie and the boys just hanging in there right through 80 minutes to win this thing is superb. This is something we’ve dreamed of for a while, we can rest in peace.”

Meanwhile man-of-the-match Dusautoir was proud of the fight his team had shown.

“It’s a real pity but I’m very proud of my boys — we lost two games in the pool but made the final,” the flanker said.

“We read a lot of stuff this week (about how France would lose) but we proved a lot of people wrong today.”

An enthralling contest saw both sides lose their playmakers to injury, France’s Morgan Parra suffering a blow to the face and the All Blacks’ Aaron Cruden turning his knee.

Weepu failed with his opening penalty kick, after six frantic minutes saw both sides keep ball in hand, although a lot of side-to-side play did not amount to anything remotely threatening as defences held firm.

The opening try came from the most unlikeliest of sources, Woodcock crossing in the 15th minute after a well-worked lineout move that saw Jerome Kaino take the ball at the back and pop it to the prop as he came through a gap in the middle of the line.

Weepu missed the conversion and then a second penalty.

Cruden, only playing after tournament-ending groin injuries to Dan Carter and Colin Slade, was the next casualty when he twisted his knee in a Trinh-Duc tackle to hand fourth-choice stand-off Donald his World Cup debut.

Trinh-Duc, who impressed in the pivotal role of fly-half after replacing Parra, missed a 36th minute drop-goal.

But he made a scintillating break shortly afterwards, Weepu producing a fantastic tap tackle to bring him down in the 22m area.

France — beaten twice in the pool stages by both New Zealand, and, stunningly, Tonga — started the second-half exactly as they had hoped by forcing the All Blacks into an error.

But Dimitri Yachvili missed the tricky penalty.

For New Zealand, Donald took over the kicking duties from the faltering Weepu, and hit a 35-metre penalty in the 46th minute.

But the French came firing back, going through several phases before Dusautoir barrelled through Weepu’s poor tackle for try Yachvili converted to make it 8-7.

It then looked like panic stations in the All Blacks camp, Henry bringing on Andy Ellis for Weepu and also replacing Keven Mealamu and Sam Whitelock.

Trinh-Duc saw a 48-metre penalty effort go wide in the 65th minute, with France in the ascendancy.

However, the All Blacks’ defence held firm to deny the gutsy French.

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