Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Victory proves New Zealand are the best

Any lingering doubts that this All Blacks side are the best that rugby has ever seen were simply obliterated by this mouth-watering Rugby World Cup final.

The British may love an underdog but there are times in sport where it is a privilege just to watch and admire the best in the business. Those at Twickenham who were not wearing the gold and green of Australia would certainly have done that.

Add into the mix that this was probably the last hurrah for some of the finest players New Zealand have ever produced - Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu and centres Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith - then this final had it all.

Credit too for a spirited recovery by the Wallabies. Against any other opposition, such momentum might well have seen them achieve a monumental come-back. Against these All Blacks though, that just does not happen. No wonder they are the only side to have successfully defended the World Cup trophy.

This final may have begun as a war of attrition, all tight, tense and testy, but it developed into something quite magnificent, thanks to two stunning All Blacks tries followed by a brave fightback by the Wallabies.

The opening try of the game followed a half where the All Blacks had been hugely dominant in terms of possession and territory, and it could easily have been try of the tournament, such was the guile and skill involved.

Kieran Read's exquisite off-load began it, Conrad Smith's inside ball to Carter opened up the space before McCaw - operating in the sort of position that you would never see an England flanker - span out a quick ball for Nehe Milner-Skudder to finish. Not bad work for a player who only made his All Blacks debut in August.

If Australia's hearts dropped during the half-time break, the head coach Michael Cheika must have kept his stats paper well hidden this time - New Zealand had enjoyed 79 per cent of the territory and 71 per cent of possession.

The All Black machine can be merciless however. We will miss those rampaging runs of Nonu's when he hangs up his boots, and he saved one of his best until last - aided by Kurtley Beale's unfortunate slip - to put New Zealand into a seemingly unstoppable position.

It took some ill discipline by Ben Smith to give Australia that chink of light, the full-back sin-binned for pulling Drew Mitchell's leg up in the air at a tackle. The Wallabies were suddenly inspired, their player of the tournament David Pocock getting a pushover try and then Tevita Kuridrani waltzing through. Suddenly it was 21-17... surely not.

Carter, though, re-applied his boot to Australia's neck, a quite sumptuous and unexpected drop-goal extending the lead, then a long-range penalty dropping just over the crossbar.

Australia became desperate, Ben Smith picked up a loose ball and kicked, Beauden Barrett easily winning the foot race to touch down under the posts, with Carter converting for a final score of 34-17.

The best team in the world had won what has been, by common consent, the best Rugby World Cup there has been. Mission well and truly accomplished.


From Belfast Telegraph