Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

All Blacks-France: Five unforgettable moments

Aurelien Rougerie of France tackles Ma'a Nonu. Photo / Getty Images
Aurelien Rougerie of France tackles Ma'a Nonu. Photo / Getty Images

The French often talk about "moments de verite" in their rugby, the All Blacks might refer to them by their translation "moments of truth". Here were the five moments Andrew Alderson thought made a difference to the outcome of the World Cup final at Eden Park.

French V-formation at the haka

This set the tone. They held hands in response to the late advantage New Zealand get over other teams before kick-off and swarmed towards the All Blacks as if straining against invisible leashes. They also did the unthinkable and crossed the halfway line, showing they meant business as their performance so richly demonstrated.

Tony Woodcock try

A definitive moment, given it kept the All Blacks with a slight advantage throughout. The All Blacks split the French at the front and back of the lineout ten metres out. The ball was popped to Woodcock who came off the front of the lineout to barrel through, barely marked.

Woodcock is just the second prop and the first since Tony Daly in 1991 to score a try in a World Cup final. That effort suddenly seemed mighty important as the All Blacks edged ahead in possession with three minutes left on the clock.

Stephen Donald entering the fray in the 34th minute

Lampooned and lambasted at times by the New Zealand public, Donald showed terrific spirit coming on as the fourth ranked first-five in the selectors' rankings this season. The pressure he faced was enormous. The man known as "Beaver" came on when Aaron Cruden went down with his knee injury and immediately dispatched a long raking punt downfield to ease territory pressure. Then there were the storming runs, outstanding tackles and the 35m penalty early in the fifth minute of the second half. He was a man possessed. How the folks at the Wolf and Beaver, the pub he co-owns in his hometown of Waiuku, must have cheered.

Piri Weepu kicking the ball out behind him to finish the first half 5-0 up

This said much about how the first stanza played out for the All Blacks. They had thrown plenty at France and dominated at times but could make little headway with just the Woodcock try to show. Weepu had missed the conversion and two penalties (eight points) which could have extended them to a healthy lead. It was a decision that would have given the French confidence: it suggested "we need to regroup". The crowd, who had forked out plenty of moolah for their tickets, were displeased and booed briefly. However, that's not to single out Weepu. His ankle tap of Francois Trinh-Duc dashing through a gap in the 37th minute saved a potential try.

Ball slipping out back of All Blacks ruck in 47th minute

This saw replacement first-five Francois Trinh-Duc seize on a gap and throw a million-dollar, no-look ball to Dimitri Yachvili - the All Blacks scrambled to shut them down in the corner. However, the momentum and spirit carried through the next movement and inspirational skipper Thierry Dusautoir scored next to the posts. It was the beginning of the French responding to their humiliation over the course of the week (and the tournament) despite earning the right to make the final. The All Blacks' grit was tested to its maximum as a result.

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