That was what World Cup finals should always be like - full of tries and running and the utter gut-churning anxiety of a courageous comeback.

Ben Smith's yellow card coloured what should have been an All Black procession but instead helped give away 14 points.

But winning at this level of sport is always about poise under pressure and the All Blacks have only rarely been under this kind of examination - relieved only by the most cool of the ice-cool: Dan Carter and his second dropped goal of the tournament.

The win will have given the All Blacks deep satisfaction.

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Not just making history with the retention of the World Cup but beating the best opposition at the tournament to do so.

If all the stories are correct, the All Blacks don't like the Wallabies as much as they do, say, the Springboks. But to be the best of the best, you have to beat the best - and the Wallabies' defence was the best in the world and at this tournament.

But their path to the final told; they were physically banged up on the way to Twickenham and the All Blacks banged them up some more in the first half with some bruising play at the breakdown and in the tackle.

The possession and territory stats in the first half were as one-sided as an Australian debate about the best country in the world and the Wallabies were visibly beginning to wilt as the All Blacks imposed their will.

A minute and 30 seconds into the World Cup final and Stephen Moore's bloodied nose told of the immediate pressure. Eighty minutes later, all the Wallabies were leaving the field with bloodied noses, even after their brave two-try comeback from 21-3 to 21-17.

Heroes? All the retirees, especially Richie McCaw with one of his finest matches, did the business, but watch lock Sam Whitelock's game, full of bruising purpose and execution and hard yards, setting the platform for the tries to Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu's brilliant runaway try - the sort of score you are never supposed to see in the tightness of a World Cup final.

Try Jerome Kaino, too, another whose bristling defence knocked the Wallabies off stride, and his attacking play gave the lie to his veteran status. Ben Smith - until his indiscipline and tip tackle earned 10 minutes in the naughty chair - was the best of the backs with his trademark wriggling through tackles. Namesake Aaron had yet another marvelous game at halfback with his constant attendance at rucks, bullet clearance of the ball and generalship.

Their work up front was too strong for the Wallabies and their bench too strong and too talented - but you can do nothing but salute the grit of the Wallabies. The threat of David Pocock and Michael Hooper at the breakdown was largely nullified by the All Blacks' ruthlessness in the collisions phase, yet it says so much about the Wallabies and their rivalry with NZ that they came back so well.

So where's George Gregan when you really need him? Never mind four more years. After this morning's All Blacks World Cup win, the next tournament in Japan will be 20 years since the Wallabies have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.

But this was all about the All Blacks - a great team putting the seal on a great era with some players not just of greatness but lasting greatness of the C. E. Meads variety.

Especially Dan Carter, first-five extraordinaire and finally the man who owned a World Cup final.