In the much anticipated 2015 Rugby World Cup Final played at Twickenham on Saturday evening, the All Blacks defeated the Wallabies 34-17 to become the first team to win consecutive World Cups and the first to win the title three times.
It was a masterclass in tactics by New Zealand now justifiably declared as the best team the Rugby world has ever seen.
The fast pace of the game dictated by the Kiwis from the kick-off took Australia by surprise and New Zealand reaped the benefits, dominating the first half with 70% of the possession and the Wallabies missing 17 tackles.
A high number of turn-overs and some clever kicking over the centre of the pitch saw the Wallabies put under constant pressure to get out of their own half.
The first half saw an unexpected and unwelcome level of attrition for the men in gold as Kane Douglas went off with an injured knee in the first fifteen minutes followed by key player Matt Giteau, who went off in the 24th minute for a concussion test and did not return to the field.
The defense by the All Blacks was strong and consistent pressuring the Wallabies in the middle of the field meaning scoring opportunities for Australia were few in the first 40 minutes.
The dominance shown by the All Blacks through the tournament in the line-out again played a part and was in strong contrast to the line-outs of its opposition, seen as the weakest tool in the Wallaby armoury, leading to turnovers on more than one occasion.
The half time score of 16-3 reflected the tone of the match to that point and the stats predicted an ominous scenario.
The second half began in the same tone as the first had ended, with an early try to New Zealand.
The sparks of hope were then lit for Australia’s supporters when David Pocock scored the first Wallabies' try off the back of a driving maul while New Zealand were down to 14 men with Ben Smith in the bin. Twelve minutes later, Tevita Kuridrani then dived for the line reducing the margin to just four points as Bernard Foley remained on target with the boot.
(Tevita Kuridrani of Australia scores his try despite the tackle from Julian Savea (no11) of the New Zealand All Blacks - Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
The expected dominance of David Pocock in turning the ball over and gaining possession in close contest -- a strength of Australia’s game in this tournament -- was nullified by smart tactics as the All Blacks kept the ball away from him by going to the short side from the middle of play.
When the margin blew out to ten points following firstly a brilliant drop goal and then a penalty goal from Dan Carter, the die was cast with five minutes left on the clock. A last minute running try to Barrett saw the final margin sit at 17 points and a deserved win to the top ranked team in the world.
For the Wallabies, David Pocock’s face said it all – crooked nose, two black eyes, scratched and bloodied, taking deep breaths as he accepted his silver medal, personifying the seven weeks of relentless hard work the Australian team had endured to get to the final.
The Wallabies have won 10 tests this year – the most since they won the Rugby World Cup in 1999 and, while of little consolation in the short-term, the performance of this team during the this World Cup campaign has become a testament to the growth of the side under the tutelage of Michael Cheika in just one year.
So the future for Australian rugby looks bright.
The plaudits must however sit squarely with the New Zealand All Black team of 2015 and this well-won title which underlines an era of dominance in New Zealand rugby – lead by two of the all-time greats in McCaw and Carter – the likes of which may not be seen again.
Dan Carter was named Man of the Match in his last Test in the black jersey while Richie McCaw has not made his decision on international retirement just yet and says the winning feeling makes continuing on very tempting.
As the formalities subsided, the tone which has become a strong feature of this World Cup tournament continued to shine through with an emotional final Haka from the All Blacks ...
Followed by the ultimate respect between opponents ...
And a beautiful gesture by SBW.