LONDON, October 31 – Dan Carter bowed out as the king of rugby Saturday when he kicked the All Blacks to a historic 34-17 World Cup victory over Australia at Twickenham.
Carter scored 19 points in his final match as New Zealand held off a fierce Australia fightback to became the first team to retain the World Cup and the first to win three titles.
The Wallabies closed to within three points of the All Blacks in the second half, but Carter steadied the ship with a monstrous drop goal and a 50 metre penalty to decide the game.
With three tries, two converted, and a further three Carter penalties the All Blacks put on a brilliant show, spoiled only by Ben Smith becoming the first player to be sin-binned in a final.
Richie McCaw raised the Webb Ellis Cup in front of 80,125 people for the second time in four years after 80 minutes of high-octane rugby.
“We played some damned good rugby there,” said McCaw after.
“We lost a bit of momentum in the second half, but we kept our composure. We came home strong which has been the mark of this team for the past four years,” McCaw said of the dramatic win.
Carter, who has confirmed it was his 112th and final Test, stretched his world record points tally to 1,598.
“We try to do things no other team has done before,” commented Carter. “It’s a special feeling to be part of such a great team.”
– The best –
It was Carter’s fourth World Cup, but his first final. He missed the 2011 final because of injury.
“I’m pretty grateful to be where I am considering what happened four years ago,” said Carter. “I’m so proud of the team. To win back-to-back World Cups is a dream come true.
“You couldn’t script it any better,” commented coach Steve Hansen, mastermind of the team that some are already hailing as the best in history.
The Wallabies put up a stubborn resistance for much of the first half but the speed of the All Blacks and their passes proved too much.
The Australians resistance broke just before half-time, when Conrad Smith, Aaron Smith and McCaw combined to put Nehe Milner Skudder over in the corner.
Sonny Bill Williams, who replaced Conrad Smith at half-time, produced two classy off-loads with his first touches. The second put Ma’a Nonu on a 40 metre run to the line.
That put the All Blacks 21-3.
But the Wallabies came back with two converted tries in the second half after Ben Smith was sent to the sin-bin.
David Pocock crossed from a lineout drive and Tevita Kuridrani scored when Australia counter-attacked after Milner-Skudder missed touch with a clearing kick.
– Wing kings shut out –
The two wings with places in the record books at stake, Julian Savea and Drew Mitchell were unable to cross the line.
Savea finished the tournament with eight tries, equalling the record for a single World Cup set by Jonah Lomu (1999) and Bryan Habana (2007).
Mitchell signed off without adding to his 14 career World Cup tries, one behind the record shared by Lomu and Habana.
Australia kicked off but were immediately forced back into their own half. Australian skipper Stephen Moore had a bloody nose within seconds of the physical game starting.
New Zealand threatened on the right with Milner-Skudder before winning a penalty so Carter could start his almost perfect afternoon with the boot to put the first points on the board.
Although the All Blacks were applying the early pressure a series of errors allowed Australia into the game.
From a scrum the All Blacks front row was penalised and Bernard Foley landed the equalising penalty.
New Zealand blew a chance to regain the lead when awarded a penalty which scrum-half Aaron Smith decided to run rather than let Carter have a shot at goal. Smith was penalised when tackled near the posts.
Wallaby prop Sekope Kepu warned once for a late tackle on Carter gave away another penalty for a high tackle on the New Zealand fly-half. This time Carter kicked the points.
After Carter landed his third penalty the All Blacks produced the opening try. Conrad Smith, Aaron Smith and McCaw all featuring in the move to put Milner-Skudder over for the All Blacks to turn 16-3 ahead.
Williams, who came on for Conrad Smith at the break, produced two sensational off-loads with his first two touches of the ball, to set up Nonu’s try.
The Pocock and Kuridrani tries saw Australia close the gap to 21-17 before man-of the match Carter landed his drop goal and penalty. Beauden Barrett then scored the shutout try with Carter landing the conversion.