24 years and the monkey is off the back, they did not choke and all the other clichés could be brought out. But the 2011 version of the All Blacks withstood everything France and injury could throw at them and came out as Champions at Eden Park. Final score France 7-8 New Zealand.
Right from the kick-off it was obvious which France (Les Bleus, though in white tonight) team had turned up as for the first five minutes the All Blacks did not have any ball or territory. Then a penalty for holding allowed the All Blacks to kick up field and another penalty gave Piri Weepu a shot at goal from out wide. The kick was missed and France cleared their lines. The game was being played at a frantic pace and big hits came in from both sides. As first France made ground and then New Zealand drove up-field.
15 minutes gone and a line-out to New Zealand on the French line, ball to the back to Jerome Kaino who caught and dropped it down into the gap for Tony Woodcock to run onto it. The French did not fill the hole and he had a straightforward run to the line 5-0 New Zealand, as Weepu missed the conversion. The half continued with France running when in the All Blacks half and kicking well when not. They had a couple of chances to go for goal but from distance and so kicked for the corners. Piri Weepu however had another pot at goal on 25 mins when the French got penalised for hands in the ruck. This one again went wide so still 5-0 and the tension was beginning to mount especially as Trinh-Duc missed a drop kick attempt having replaced Parra. So it was we came to half-time with the score still at France 0-5 New Zealand and with Cruden forced off injured the luck of Kiwi 10’s continued as Stephen Donald joined the fray.
France started the second half as brightly as they had the first and within 2 minutes Yachvili had a chance to close the gap as New Zealand were pinged for playing the ball on the floor. The problems with kicking goals in this World Cup now afflicted the French and so it was he missed. However on 44 minutes Stephen Donald had a chance at goal from in front and he made no mistake. France 0-8 New Zealand. If the supporters thought this would see the French buckle they were wrong as within 4 minutes they had driven up field and skipper Thierry Dusautoir went over just outside the posts giving Trinh-Duc and easy conversion 7-8. Game on.
All over New Zealand the nerves were getting frayed still further as the French racked up the pressure and had the bulk of possession and play-making. 60 minutes and the Blacks who had been pressing the French try-line allowed them off the hook and so it was that on 64 minutes Trinh-Duc had a pot a goal, this like many before was missed and badly, so we moved into the last 10 minutes of play. New Zealand worked their way up into French territory but a collapsed maul allowed them to clear their lines and exert pressure on the All Blacks. A knock on gave the turn-over to New Zealand and as we moved into the last 5 minutes they played tight to close out the game. French frustration led to two penalties which helped the Blacks retain possession and play down the clock thus giving them the win and final score of:
France 7-8 New Zealand
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Andrew Hore (for Mealamu), Ben Franks, Ali Williams (for Whitelock), Adam Thomson, Andy Ellis (for Weepu), Stephen Donald (for Cruden), Sonny Bill Williams (for Nonu).
France: Maxime Médard, Vincent Clerc, Aurélien Rougerie Maxime Mermoz, Alexis Palisson, Morgan Parra, Dimitri Yachvili; Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Papé, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Julien Bonnaire, Imanol Harinordoquy.
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski (for Servat), Fabien Barcella (for Poux), Julien Pierre (for Pape), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Jean-Marc Doussain (for Yachvili), François Trinh-Duc (temp for Parra) Damien Traille (for Clerc).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)