New Zealand 34 Australia 17
New Zealand cemented their status as rugby’s greatest ever team by becoming the first side to retain the World Cup with 34-17 victory over Australia.
Skipper Richie McCaw became the first man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice, surely ending his All Blacks career as the game’s unparalleled captain.
Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ma’a Nonu and Beauden Barrett bagged tries, while Dan Carter booted 19 points in his All Blacks farewell – including a vital drop-goal to fend off David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani’s quick-fire scores.
New Zealand were hoping to make history today by beating Australia and become the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Cup.
The All Blacks boasted seven 2011 champions in their starting line-up at Twickenham, with at least five of their stars ready to retire after the final whistle.
Breakdown kings David Pocock and Michael Hooper led the charge for Michael Cheika’s Australia, unrecognisable from the listless Wallabies squad the head coach inherited just a year ago.
Wallabies boss Cheika and scrum coach Mario Ledesma appeared to let their tactics for the showpiece slip when a keen-eyed photographer snapped private notes on Friday.
Cheika and Ledesma brandished apparent pre-match notes at their captain’s run training session at Twickenham, only for the plans to be revealed through the snapper’s quick thinking.
Much of the detail proved to be fairly obvious, however, leading to widespread suggestions of subterfuge from the Wallabies.
Canny head coach Cheika has never been shy of adopting the odd ruse, and Friday’s telegraphed paper waving suggested he was up to his old tricks.
The All Blacks were completely unfazed either way however, Hooper felled in midfield before Sam Whitelock charged down Will Genia.
Ma’a Nonu’s clean break took New Zealand within touching distance of a first score, only for Aaron Smith to waste a scrum platform with an ill-conceived grubber kick.
New Zealand attacked again with Nehe Milner-Skudder almost sneaking clear, before Dan Carter opened the scoring from the tee.
Australia’s leaked notes talked of rattling All Blacks number eight Read, and the loose forward had to fend off an early ankle problem that required heavy strapping.
Richie McCaw claimed two turnovers in as many minutes as Australia struggled to impose their previous breakdown supremacy on the defending champions.
New Zealand then gifted Australia three points from the tee to level the scores, Ben Smith knocking on cheaply and the All Blacks then conceding a scrum penalty.
Foley duly slotted the goal to tie up the match but Australia then lost Kane Douglas to a knee injury, Dean Mumm slotting into the lock cordon.
New Zealand punted one penalty to the corner then quickly tapped another, only for Hooper to win a try-saving turnover on his own line.
Sekope Kepu escaped with just a penalty for a late hit on Carter, but referee Nigel Owens made the right call not to sin-bin the Wallabies prop.
New Zealand punted the penalty for a lineout, only for Hooper and Pocock to force another crucial turnover and thwart the All Blacks again.
Rob Simmons then got in on the turnover act too, as Australia found their rhythm at the breakdown.
Kepu then conceded another penalty, again for a hit on Carter, this time a high tackle.
The All Blacks fly-half slotted the goal to edge his side 6-3 ahead.
Matt Giteau was unable to continue after a head injury assessment, forcing the Wallabies to re-jig their backline.
Kurtley Beale slotted on to the wing, with Adam Ashley-Cooper moving into the centres to parter Tevita Kuridrani.
Carter nudged a third penalty to push the lead to six points, with New Zealand profiting from referee Owens missing a forward pass from Milner-Skudder.
The All Blacks then took control, a sumptuous offload from Read setting the scene for a stunning score.
Conrad Smith’s inside ball to Carter opened the space for the fly-half to feed McCaw and the captain sent Milner-Skudder over in the right corner.
Carter’s touchline conversion left New Zealand with a 14-3 half-time lead.
New Zealand spent half their half-time break on the field, running passing drills. Clearly there was nothing left to say.
No team talk required from head coach Steve Hansen, the world’s best side simply kept themselves warm waiting for the Wallabies to return.
Sonny Bill Williams replaced Conrad Smith for the second half, and so veteran centre Smith’s last action in an All Black shirt was to conjure the try that set his side in motion to rewrite history.
Cross-code superstar Williams’ impact was immediate however, fixing the Wallabies’ defence in style.
Ma’a Nonu thundered on through Australia’s porous line and rounded the cover for another hugely impressive try.
Just when the Wallabies looked dead and buried, Beale worked Drew Mitchell through for a scything line-break.
New Zealand bulldozed Australia’s scrum but somehow the Wallabies kept their shape, and then Beale turned Milner-Skudder’s break on its head with a scamper of his own.
Suddenly Australia were in full attacking motion, only to be stopped by Ben Smith’s dangerous tackle on Mitchell.
Full-back Smith was duly sin-binned for the challenge in another good decision from referee Davies.
Australia punted the penalty to the corner and from the lineout drove number eight Pocock home for their first try.
Bernard Foley’s conversion left New Zealand leading 21-8, but staring down the best part of 10 minutes a man light.
Australia again exploited their man advantage thanks to Genia’s savvy kick in behind.
With the All Blacks minus their full-back, the Wallabies rightly battled to expose their light back-field set-up and Drew Mitchell latched onto scrum-half Genia’s chip in behind.
The Toulon wing stood up in the tackle long enough for the support to arrive, before firing the inside pass to the onrushing Kuridrani.
The bustling centre cut the perfect angle to breach New Zealand’s defence and claim Australia’s second try.
Foley’s conversion cut New Zealand’s lead to just four points but then Carter slotted a snap drop-goal from 40 metres to stretch the advantage back to seven.
Carter’s fourth penalty put New Zealand 27-17 to the good with five minutes to play.
Australia then spilled the ball throwing caution to the wind, New Zealand broke at pace and Beauden Barrett won the footrace to his own kick to claim the third and match-winning score.
Carter’s conversion sealed the deal, completing glittering All Blacks careers for himself, McCaw, Conrad Smith, Nonu and Keven Mealamu – a host of greats of the game all hanging up their boots in unprecedented style, with Carter making up for missing the 2011 triumph through injury.