New Zealand entered the tournament as favourites and they have departed as the 2015 World Champions. They were the quality team throughout and deserving of the title. In the process they became the only team to retain the trophy. It was also the only time that Australia had lost a World Cup match in England. As there have been 3 tournaments (1991, 1999 & 2015), that has also been an amazing achievement.
From the 1st exchanges New Zealand applied maximum pressure with offensive big hits and pressure on Will Genia’s kicks in defence. Once they gained possession they did not relinquish it for large periods of time. With NZ dominating the possession and territory stats with 70% in their favour, Australia were under the cosh. Without the significant intervention of the Australian backrow, the damage on the scoreboard could have been worse. Fardy, Pocock and Hooper each assumed a strong stealing position to win a turnover, as NZ searched for the try.
Throughout all the first half Julian Savea was popping up, desperate to impose himself on the game. He was constantly physically bumping defenders. At times you felt NZ could have opted for 3 points, rather than quick tap that itself was turned over. On the stroke of half time, the tactics paid off though with Nehe Milner-Skudder being put over in the right hand corner, to record a 16 – 3 half time lead.
Was the Australia comeback on?
Ma Monu was the first to score for NZ in the 2nd half. After this, Australia had their first sustained period of pressure on the NZ line. On one such foray close to the try line, Ben Smith infringed when lifting Drew Mitchell above the horizontal. There was no malice involved but it was 10 minutes in the sin bin. Australia immediately made the advantage count, with a rolling maul try for my player of the tournament, Pocock. As Tevita Kuridrani scrambled over for the 2nd try in the sin bin period, the gap dropped to 4 points. Was the greatest world cup come back on?
Sadly, for Australia it wasn’t to be as NZ showed their quality and composure. Dan Carter in particular came to the fore as he sat back in the pocket and dropped a goal from 40m. It was a sweet strike, meaning that Australia would have to score a converted try. The final say of the game went to Carter as he converted Beauden Barrett’s try with his non dominant right foot.
All good things must come to an end
England 2015 must be commended for the tournament that has been delivered to the World. The sight of the Red Arrows trailing their traditional colours of red, white and blue over the Twickenham sky was a fitting prelude to the main event.
Richie McCaw & Dan Carter
There is every chance we witnessed the final international matches of a number of NZ players including Richie McCaw and Carter. They have been the cornerstones of the most unbelievable period in New Zealand rugby. The world has marveled at their individual skills whether at the breakdown/leadership or game management/goal kicking for McCaw and Carter respectively. They have always been more concerned with the betterment and performance of the team than their own individual gain. New Zealand have a slogan of “leave the shirt in a better place than they found it” There is no doubting these two in particular have achieved this in bucket loads.
There is plenty to look forward to over the coming 4 years but cannot wait to witness the next tournament.