Led by the indomitable Richie McCaw, the All Blacks became the first team to retain the title despite a spirited comeback from the Wallabies, who were down 21-3 before rallying with 14 unanswered points. Flyhalf Dan Carter nailed a drop goal from 40 metres out and followed it up with a penalty from just inside the opposition’s half before his last-minute conversion of Beauden Barrett’s try proved to be the icing on the cake.
It would prove to be third time unlucky for an inspired France as the All Blacks held firm finally to secure their second title on home soil. Prop Tony Woodcock scored the only try of the game from a 15th minute lineout but France were resolute and the title was decided by a penalty from fourth choice flyhalf Stephen Donald.
In only the second try-less final, the Springboks prevented England from becoming the first side to defend their crown as fullback Percy Montgomery kicked four penalties while centre Francois Steyn added another from long range. The match turned on referee Alain Rolland’s decision to rule out a try from England’s Mark Cueto soon after halftime, judging that the winger’s foot had strayed into touch before he got the ball down.
England’s Jonny Wilkinson and Australia’s Elton Flatley converted four penalties each in a tense 100-minute affair that went to extra time courtesy of a last-gasp three-pointer from the Wallabies flyhalf. It was Wilkinson who wrote his name into the history books, however, with his dramatic drop goal 26 seconds before the end of extra time ensuring that England would become the first side from the northern hemisphere to be crowned world champions.
Australia fullback Matt Burke punished French ill-discipline with seven penalties to add to his two conversions at the newly-constructed Millennium Stadium. Trailing 21-12, France were still in the contest before second-half tries from winger Ben Tune and replacement forward Owen Finegan put the game out of reach to give the Wallabies their second title.
Newly-elected South African president Nelson Mandela saw the World Cup on home soil as an opportunity to unite a country torn apart by Apartheid and the Springboks duly delivered with a narrow victory over the all-conquering All Blacks. All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, who had demolished opponents and led the tournament with seven tries, was stopped in his tracks by a dogged Springboks defence as Joel Stransky’s kicking took the host nation all the way.
The Wallabies lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time thanks to a single converted try from prop Tony Daly and two Michael Lynagh penalties. Fullback Jonathan Webb scored two penalties for England, whose decision to ditch their forward-reliant tactics for an expansive running game backfired.
The All Blacks laid down the marker in the very first World Cup final, dominating from start to finish as flyhalf Grant Fox’s kicking helped his team gain territory time and again. Fox finished with 17 points from four penalties, a drop goal and a conversion, with Michael Jones, skipper David Kirk and John Kirwan scoring tries while Pierre Berbizier went over for France’s only try.