New Zealand rugby players yesterday were crowned world champions for the first time in 24 years after squeezing past an inspired France team by a single point. Tony Woodcock’s early try and a penalty from fourth-choice fly-half Stephen Donald were enough to see the All Blacks home in an extraordinary match that defied all pre-match predictions.
France produced their best performance of the tournament and appeared to be close to pulling off one of the great upsets after captain Thierry Dusatoir’s try with half an hour remaining set up a nerve-shredding finale.
But Francois Trinh-Duc missed a long-range penalty before desperate defence saw the favourites hang on for a famous win.
As you looked around Eden Park late yesterday night, camera-flashes twinkling among the black-clad thousands in the stands like stars in the night sky, one emotion dominated all others: an enormous, unmistakable sense of relief. The final whistle triggered scenes of wild jubilation at Eden Park as a nation celebrated a repeat of the outcome from the very first World Cup final in 1987.