The respective coaches, Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika, might go out of their way to needle each other these days, but the week leading up to last year's World Cup final was dull. It was a deliberate policy of both sides toavoid saying anything that might antagonise the other. In fact, the most interesting thing was Cheika explaining why he doesn't refer to New Zealand as the All Blacks, and the notes photographed in Cheika's hands at the captain's run which outlined some of their planning, like "rattling" Kieran Read at the kick off, "expose" wings Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea and an instruction to avoid "Carter rage".
The weather was perfect in London on the afternoon of the final-21 degrees and clear skies. Twickenham was humming by the time the game kicked off, with the 80,125-strong crowd split about 50/50. There was even be grudging admiration for the way the All Blacks had dismantled France in the quarter-finals and built their campaign. Savea looked particularly fired up in the haka, which maybe had something to do with Cheika's note.
The All Blacks started with a physical edge as they attempted to gain control and Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore had blood streaming from his face in the first 90 seconds. But there was greater concern in the All Blacks camp soon after when Kieran Read landed heavily from a lineout and badly damaged ankle ligaments. The No 8 hobbled around as he tried toshake it off and it looked like he would have to be replaced by Victor Vito but he soldiered on andplayed thewhole game.
Dan Carter landed a penalty from reasonably wide out on the left to give the All Blacks a 3-0 lead. He added others in the 27th and 36th minutes as New Zealand converted pressure into points.
The All Blacks were winning the collisions and their lineoutwas operating effectively, making life difficult for the Wallabies. Carter was controlling the match well, despite someclose attention from Sekope Kepu, who twice hit Carter late or high. On the second occasion, Carter could beheard politely enquiring of referee Nigel Owens whether it had been the same playe rwho had hit him twice.
Owens decided to keep his yellow card in his pocket when it could easily have been brandished. David Pocock's boot also came in contact with Richie McCaw's face. Despite theevidence, it was little surprise when he wasn't cited. After all, France's Aurelien Rougerie wasn't cited after the 2011 World Cup final for his eye examination of McCaw.
For all their dominance, the All Blacks led only 9-3 on the eve of halftime. That was until Milner- Skudder scored in the corner after a prolonged attack. Australia, who had defended their line well for so long, were outnumbered down their left as the All Blacks shifted the ball through hands. Carter landed the conversion from the sideline to give his side a handy 16-3 halftime lead.
Hansen isn't averse to springing the occasional surprise and he produced one at the break when he replaced Conrad Smith with Sonny Bill Williams. It surprised Smith, too, who admitted afterwards he felt slightly removed from celebrations because he'd been substituted. Hansen explained post-match he wanted to put the Aussies off their stride because they wouldn't have been expecting a change so early.
#1 42 minutes
Few would have been surprised, though, when Williams produced a couple of offloads which eventuated in Ma'a Nonu skipping past a couple of defenders to score. There was a feeling that if the All Blacks scored first after halftime, they would win comfortably and, having done it so soon after the break, some wondered if they might threaten the biggest winning margin in a World Cup final-Australia's 35-12 win over France in 1999.
#2 52 minutes
But all that changed when Ben Smith was yellow carded. Smith's lifting tackle on Drew Mitchell was needless and clumsy, and Owens had little choice but to sinbin the fullback. It was the first ever card (yellowor red) shown in a World Cup final and was the one scenario the All Blacks weren't really prepared for because, while Beauden Barrett was waiting on the bench, they didn't really have a fullback on the field. Milner-Skudder was forced to cover both wing and fullback.
The Wallabies scored immediately after, with David Pocock going over from a lineout drive. Australia scored again through Tevita Kuridrani in the 64th minute, with Smith ready to return to the game. Will Genia kicked intelligently into space, with Savea in the midfield to cover for Smith, the bounce was favourable and Bernard Foley popped a pass to the Wallabies centre to run in. When the conversion went over, and the score narrowed to 21-17, it was most definitely game on.
Dropped goals are not usually in the All Blacks repertoire - to the despair of a nation in 2007 - but Carter produced the most important of his career. It didn't even look like he really planned it, and he didn't have much space, but he struck it sweetly from 40m out and it sailed between the uprights.
It was the same with his penalty attempt four minutes later. Australia were still within striking distance and knew they had to go for it in thehopeof scoring a converted try but were penalised for collapsing a scrum just inside their own half. McCaw wanted to kick for the corner but Carter said he could land it. After a short discussion, Carter was backed. His confidence was well placed.
#3 78 minutes
If the engraver had any doubts about the result, he could etch the name New Zealand on the Webb Ellis Cup with certainty after Beauden Barrett crossed. Australia were trying desperately to find away through but the ball was lost forward and fell into Ben Smith's hands deep inside New Zealand territory. Smith beat three defenders before stabbing a kick through. Barrett used hispace to outstrip David Pocock and regathered toscore by theposts. Carter calmly slotted the conversion and most fans probably wouldn't have noticed he did it with his right foot. The 33-year-old wasn't trying to disrespect the Aussies, rather was fulfilling a long-held dream. Before the World Cup, Carter was asked by halfback Aaron Smith if he hadever landed a right-footed kick. "He was like, 'imagine if we'reahead by more than a try in the World Cup final, it's your last kick in a test match', and we kind of laughed and joked, 'yeah, that would be great'," Carter later recalled. It was Carter's last meaningful act in a black jersey.
#4 80 minutes
The All Blacks became the first team to successfully defend the World Cup, the first to win it three times and first New Zealand team to lift it away from home. "We said four years ago after the last one we would get on the road again with the end goal of playing in another World Cup final in Twickenham and try to do something no one else had done,"McCaw said afterwards. "We played some damn good rugby there. We lost a bit of momentum in the second half but we kept our composure and came home strong. That's been the hallmark of this team for the last four years."
#5 The aftermath
Amid scenes of celebration and the presentation of the trophy, it emerged Williams had given his winner's medal to a youngster who had tried to runon to the field in search of a signature andwas heavily tackled by a security guard right in front of the All Blacks midfielder. "I kind of felt sorry forhim," Williams said. "It will be a night that he remembers, hopefully." Itwas certainly a night most New Zealanders remember.