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All Blacks defend Rugby World Cup crown

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/10/2015
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The All Blacks have made Rugby World Cup history, finally subduing Australia 34-17 in an absorbing final at Twickenham.

Stamping themselves as one of the great teams of any era, New Zealand played with a smothering mix of power and speed to lead 21-3 early in the second half before the Wallabies launched a fightback.

The All Blacks lift the Webb Ellis trophy. © Getty Images The All Blacks lift the Webb Ellis trophy.

Two tries while All Blacks fullback Ben Smith sat in the sin bin turned the last quarter into a tense affair before a 41m dropped goal and 48m penalty from man of the match Dan Carter gave the All Blacks breathing space.

A late breakout try to replacement Beauden Barrett sealed the outcome as the All Blacks became the first three-time World Cup champions and the first side to defend their title.

Beauden Barrett won the foot race to score a late try. © Getty Images Beauden Barrett won the foot race to score a late try.

Steve Hansen's team are also the first from New Zealand to win the sport's biggest prize away from home.

The match was fitting farewell for at least four of the team's greats - Carter, midfield pair Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith and hooker Keven Mealamu.

Inspirational captain Richie McCaw is also expected to announce his retirement when he returns to New Zealand, the 148-Test veteran having become the first man to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time.

Richie McCaw and the All Blacks lift the world cup. © Getty Images Richie McCaw and the All Blacks lift the world cup.

It looked like his team would cruise to the title when a double-strike either side of halftime pushed them 18 points clear against a Wallabies side hobbled by the early injury departures of lock Kane Douglas (knee) and second five-eighth Matt Giteau (concussion).

Australia responded with tenacity and trailed just 9-3 late in the first half despite having been overwhelmed.

The All Blacks had a mortgage on possession and territory but struggled to convert it into points, chipping away on the scoreboard through three Carter penalties to one from opposite Bernard Foley.

Welcome home All Blacks!

The dam burst in the final play of the half when a long string of phases and some slick passes sent wing Nehe Milner-Skudder across in the right corner.

Wallabies hopes appeared to be skewered within two minutes of the restart when Nonu scored a thrilling try, taking a sweet offload from Sonny Bill Williams, who had entered the game as a halftime substitute for Conrad Smith.

Nonu stood up Kurtley Beale and outpaced Drew Mitchell on a 45m angled run for the line.

The All Blacks were reduced to 14 men in the 52nd minute when Ben Smith was shown a yellow card for a lifting tackle on Mitchell.

The Wallabies, enjoying their best period of the game, responded with a lineout drive try to No.8 David Pocock and set up centre Tevita Kuridrani through a neat Will Genia chip into space.

Carter, who finishes his career with a world record 1598 points, put an exclamation point on his career with two vital swings of his left boot.

With his team just 21-17 ahead, he unleashed a dropped goal even more important than his equivalent kick against South Africa in the semi-finals.

His penalty soon afterwards gave him 19 points for the final and helped erase some of the mixed memories for Carter in three previous tournaments, two of which were ruined by injury.

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