New Zealand 62-13 France: Retallick leads the charge for All Blacks over French
When Brodie Retallick watched the 2011 World Cup final at his local fire station, little did he realise that four years on he would ignite New Zealand's title defence.
Retallick lit the fuse on the All Blacks' march towards another World Cup final on Saturday night, steaming in for the first score in New Zealand's 62-13 thrashing of France in Cardiff.
The 24-year-old's charge-down finish was eclipsed by Julian Savea's stunning hat-trick in the nine-try demolition of Les Bleus - but without his early strong-arm tactics, New Zealand may never have scaled such heights.
Now the All Blacks must face South Africa in the last four as they crank up their quest to make history by retaining the Webb Ellis Cup.
"It's pretty awesome to play in a quarter-final and earn the right to go and play in a semi-final," said Retallick.
"Hopefully we can push on from there but we need to get our game right and build well so we can be ready for next week.
"I never thought four years ago watching the 2011 final that I could be here at this point, not at all. I wasn't even playing Super Rugby then so it hadn't even crossed my mind."
New Zealand saw off France 8-7 at Auckland's Eden Park to claim their second World Cup title four years ago, with Retallick watching in front of a big screen at Havelock North Fire Station in Hawke's Bay.
His transformation from rangy youngster to the world's finest lock has been little short of remarkable. When not thundering into collisions, the Chiefs' second row is standing flat at first-receiver, bossing phase play as a terrifying hybrid tight-five fly-half.
England tried to copy New Zealand's tactic of sending locks into the back-line mixer, and failed.
Retallick pulls off Steve Hansen's master-stroke game-plan with worrying ease.
Now the All Blacks must roll up collective sleeves for another dogfight with the ever-combative Springboks.
New Zealand: Tries: Retallick, Milner-Skudder, Savea 3, Kaino, Read, Kerr-Barlow 2.
Cons: Carter 7.
New Zealand: B. Smith, Milner-Skudder, C. Smith, Nonu, Savea, Carter, A. Smith, Crockett, Coles, O. Franks, Retallick, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw, Read.
Replacements: Barrett for Milner-Skudder (41), Williams for C. Smith (52), Kerr-Barlow for A. Smith (65), Moody for Crockett (28), Mealamu for Coles (60), Faumuina for O. Franks (51), Vito for Kaino (65), Cane for McCaw (68).
France: Tries: Picamoles.
Pens: Spedding, Parra.
France: Spedding, Nakaitaci, Dumoulin, Fofana, Dulin, Michalak, Parra, Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani, Pape, Maestri, Dusautoir, Le Roux, Picamoles.
Replacements: Bastareaud for Dumoulin (61), Tales for Michalak (11), Kockott for Parra (68), Debaty for Ben Arous (61), Szarzewski for Guirado (56), Mas for Slimani (60), Nyanga for Pape (47), Chouly for Picamoles (72).
Sin Bin: Picamoles (47).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).