150 Years of Memories: In 2011, we knew it was our time.

Richie McCaw looked at a room full of rugby writers from around the world, hardly concentrating on their questions. His weary eyes - one of them bearing the raw bruise of a gouging - kept returning to the little golden cup in front of him.

He always said he wouldn't touch it until his team had won it. Now he could barely restrain his hands.

Outside in the streets of Auckland, parties were erupting. People spilled from bars in the Viaduct and the new waterfront Wynyard Quarter, from Queens Wharf, "party central", from Queen St, Karangahape Rd, all along the "fan trail" to Eden Park that many thousands had walked earlier that evening, many more than had tickets to the final.

All had found a screen to watch the game. All around New Zealand, you couldn't help but watch this game.

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The past seven weeks had been one long astonishing national experience. Not even the promoters of a Rugby World Cup in New Zealand had been confident the country could host it so well. In places like Napier, Nelson and New Plymouth that had matches between "minnows", Kiwis adopted one of the teams, made outfits in its colours, waved its flag, went to the game and made it fun.

In towns, the banners all participating countries adorned shops, streets and offices, and every second car was flying a little black flag and silver fern. Out in the country, farmers made shrines in their front paddock, flying the black flag and fern and putting up signs with the nation's united exhortation: "Go All Blacks".

Foreign rugby fans travelling the country in campervans met a nation that knew their game, a stadium of four million.

And so it had come to the final, the coup de grace, the icing on the cake, the cup that had cruelly eluded All Blacks teams for 24 years.

A final against France would be easy. They were lucky to be there, having struggled to survive a semi against Wales minus a player sent off. The All Blacks, by contrast, had beaten Australia in one of those performances when every running angle is right, every pass sticks, everything clicks.

The final seemed such a formality that Herald reporters taking their seats at Eden Park were not unduly worried by the deadline they had been given. They would need to file as soon as the game ended.

At halftime the All Blacks were ahead 8-0 and confidently we began to compose. Mine was to be a little atmospheric piece. I had a theme and opening paragraphs drafted when, damn it, France scored.

For the next five or ten minutes I waited for the All Blacks to reply. But France was pumped and too much of the play was within penalty range of our posts. I started an alternative theme, hating it.

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I barely saw the last 15 or 20 minutes, writing both versions. When I looked up it was to check the All Blacks still had possession but my sickening gut could hear an inevitable penalty.

Minutes dragged by, the stadium was quiet, the whole country held its breath.

Then, relief. Just blessed relief. The country took a long, grateful breath deep into its lungs, held it, savoured it, and let it out in a united whoop of pure joy.