Rugby World Cup: All Blacks make history as first back-to-back world champions
The All Blacks beat Australia 34-17 in the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham to retain the Web Ellis trophy.
The All Blacks' 34-17 victory over the Wallabies in the World Cup final at Twickenham on Sunday morning was the perfect farewell for departing legend Richie McCaw, who is expected to announce his retirement over the summer, as well as Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.
Fittingly it was the great Carter who played a major role in the victory, the first five-eighth kicking four penalties, two conversions and a drop goal to enable the All Blacks to become the first team to win consecutive tournaments.
It wasn't until the 79th minute that the All Blacks knew they had the game won, replacement outside back Beauden Barrett scoring a runaway try after fullback Ben Smith latched onto a loose ball inside his own half to hack the ball downfield and catch the opposition defence unawares.
Smith will have been mightily relieved to play such a crucial role in securing the victory - and this was the first time a side had scored three tries in the final since 1987 - because his yellow card in the 52nd minute could have cost them the world crown.
The yellow carding of Ben Smith for a lifting tackle on Drew Mitchell had a remarkable effect on the Wallabies, who scored two converted tries against the 14-man All Blacks side.
Down 21-3, the Wallabies looked bereft of ideas, unable to secure possession long enough to put themselves in scoring positions or able to expose a weak seam in the Kiwis' defence. Midfielder Ma'a Nonu's try immediately after the break looked to have sucked all the wind out of their sails, but the departure of Smith changed all that and all the momentum swung toward the Aussies.
No 8 David Pocock, as he did so well for the Brumbies this year, latched himself onto a driving lineout to score, and centre Tevita Kuridrani grabbed the second when a box kick by halfback Will Genia left Julian Savea exposed and the bobbling ball was snapped-up by Bernard Foley who distributed to Kuridrani.
Then Smith returned to the field, Carter kicked a long-range penalty, a drop goal and Barrett put it beyond doubt with his late score.
The All Blacks had to overcome an early scare when No 8 Kieran Read recovered from an injury to his right ankle, having crumpled to the turf in considerable pain in the sixth minute. There suffered another couple of frights in the first spell when Wallaby prop Scott Sio twice tackled Carter illegally.
Sio's first shot was late, the second high. Carter had the stuffing knocked out of him with the first hit but was unharmed by the coathanger and immediately kicked his second penalty.
There was an air of inevitability about the try scored by right wing Nehe Milner-Skudder in the 40th minute which, when converted by Carter, put the All Blacks head 16-3 at halftime.
If the Aussies had trailed just 9-3 when they retreated under the giant stands at HQ, they would have have felt reasonably pleased to have limited the damage to just three penalties to Carter.
When a side hogs 79 per cent of territory and almost three-quarters of possession, and possesses the attacking firepower like the All Blacks, they usually create carnage on the scoreboard.
Yet the New Zealanders weren't doing themselves many favours; they were making line breaks and getting in behind the defensive line, but a lack of precision cost them scoring opportunities.
The Wallabies' back row of David Pocock, Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper were a constant menace as they looked to steal, or disrupt possession and the All Blacks also coughed-up ball at crucial times.
Halfback Aaron Smith almost caused every Kiwi around the planet to have a heart flutter when he took a quick tap from a penalty close to the Aussies line. Carter would have easily nudged it over with his left boot but Smith, believing the opposition defensive line was jagged, fired a ball to Brodie Retallick who was robbed of possession by Pocock and Hooper.
Then Nehe Milner-Skudder struck as the All Blacks stitched together some phases. No 8 Kieran Read threw a delightful no-look pass to fellow loose forward Jerome Kaino, who made valuable metres for the crucial ruck that sucked in the defence.
The quick recycle resulted in a fine transfer from Conrad Smith - his last act in the black jersey because he was replaced by super-sub Sonny Bill Williams at the break - and McCaw also featured to send Milner-Skudder into space over in the right-hand corner.
All Blacks: 34 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ma'a Nonu, Beauden Barrett tries; Dan Carter 2 con, 4 pens, drop goal) Wallabies: 17 (David Pocock, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Bernard Foley 2 con, pen ). HT: 16-3.