Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: Scoreline straight out of '50s mud

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All Black fullback Israel Dagg loses a high ball to Damien Traille and injured himself when he landed awkwardly. Photo / Dean Purcell
All Black fullback Israel Dagg loses a high ball to Damien Traille and injured himself when he landed awkwardly. Photo / Dean Purcell

No one could accuse New Zealand of not going over the top as Rugby World Cup hosts. The country fired its best shots, and then some.

In winning the Webb Ellis Cup final though, the All Blacks were understated. Even a touch lucky.

"That was the ugliest game I've ever enjoyed," a jubilant colleague reckoned after the All Blacks scrambled and clawed their way to this country's second Rugby World Cup victory against France's stronger finish.

The long wait is over, names will be etched in glory, the devil in the detail lost.

As the supreme Richie McCaw said, the stories will grow and grow.

Individual performances will blur. New Zealand's eight points will stand the test of time, but France's seven will add up to nought.

Because a World Cup final is no ordinary game so no ordinary judgments apply.

The winning is all that counts. The All Blacks clung on to a one point lead by closing the last four minutes down, to win by a sort of scoreline straight out of 1950s mud.

Yet had this been a run-of-the-mill test match, it could fairly be said that the better team lost.

France were magnificent at Eden Park in proving many doubters wrong, and with more savvy they would have created a late drop goal and perhaps an extraordinary win.

While former All Black captains including Sean Fitzpatrick warned a largely confident New Zealand public not to under estimate France, there was still an air of fait accompli around this game because of France's tournament form.

For France to play like that, against the crowd, against the odds, against the overwhelming favourites, against home town advantages, spared us the one sided drubbing many predicted and turned this into a magnificent beast of a battle.

Beauty was sparse though, and will be left to the eye of the World Cup holder.

All those jibes - plastered to the French team's hotel walls - stirred their pride and added another fabulous chapter to the World Cup history between New Zealand and France.

The ability of the French to rise from the ashes is no myth, and nor is the concept that they are most dangerous when their egos are dented.

France were given a leg up by Piri Weepu's dreadful goalkicking, and they kept climbing.

The truth is the All Blacks were often tentative, unimpressive and disorganised.

Gutsy defence won out.

Their much vaunted attacking game was overshadowed by France's intentions.

The French captain Thierry Dusautoir was exceptional, the man of the match, and his fellow loosie Imanol Harinordoquy was next in line. The All Blacks surrendered at halftime, kicking for touch.

Graham Henry and his men deserve an avalanche of plaudits and have settled their place in history.

Knighthoods and honours will follow, along with sleep-filled nights, while Steve Hansen has earned the right to be next All Black coach.

Dealing with such weight of expectation, the hometown pressure, the critics, it is tough work in this rugby mad country, work from which only the tough survive. Henry, McCaw and co. have done a magnificent job.

But this is also a time to salute France.

We diminished their brilliant efforts in 1999 and 2007. This time we saw how good they are, what heart they have, in our own backyard.

- NZ Herald

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