In a tense and absorbing game worthy of a Rugby World Cup Final, the magnificent New Zealand All Blacks just scraped past a determined and possibly unlucky French team on a scoreline of 8 – 7. It was truly a great game of full on committment from both sides.
With all the talk about which French team would turn up – the discord in their camp, the rumours that the coach Lievrement was relegated to the background by the players and the fact that they had lost 2 pool games, including one to their final opponents – rugby supporters everywhere were apprehensive. They needn’t have worried; the players to a man defended heroically, showed more flair than their illustrious opponents and seemed to edge the up front battles for most of the game.
It was a game of two halves and also of the halves, i.e. the half backs. The All Blacks struck early on with a soft try by Tony Woodcock from a lineout close to the French line. Scrum half Piri Weepu failed with the conversion and also 2 penalties, leaving the score 5 – 0 at half time. For the French, their out-half Morgan Parra, his game ended when he suffered a head injury after a big tackle on no. 8 Reid and was replaced by Francois Trinh-Duc. A similar situation occurred not long afterwards when the All Black stand-off Aaron Cruden was replaced by their 4th choice, Stephen Donald. Play was scrappy but the committment from both sides made up for it and an enthralling contest was promised for the second half.
The French came out with all guns blazing, taking the game to the All Blacks. After a missed penalty by Yashvilli, Donald however stepped up to the mark to put over a long range penalty leaving the score 8 -0. This spurred the French back into action and from a poor chip kick by Kiwi Keepu, they gathered the ball and play swept one way then back again for captain Thierry Dusautoir to score beside the posts, converted by Trin-Duc. Game on.
The All Blacks heads were down, they looked tired on the pitch but they hung on bravely to deny a combative and determined French 15 from snatching the Webb Ellis Trophy out of their grasp. Both sides were led by the example of their captains, Mc Caw and Dusautoir, but neural supporters would not begrudge the best rugby team on the planet their hour of immortality and glory. Richie Mc Caw has played almost every game with a screw in his foot and has not trained for the duration. They were the best team in the tournament, have been overall the best team for at least 20 years and fully deserve to be World Champions.
Well done the All Blacks and a word of congratulations to a gallant French team also – you always seems to perform on the greatest stage. I would also like to compliment the Irish commentary team of Ryle Nugent and Donal Lenihan, you were streets better than your counterparts on ITV. I can go back to enjoying my Sunday morning lie-ins again but will miss the quality rugby that was a feature of many of this years RWC 2011, especially Ireland whopping the Wallabies – sorry Geoff!