New Zealand came to a standstill on Oct. 23 as the country’s national rugby team, known as the All Blacks, won its second World Cup. They became the second team in history to win the title twice, joining Australia and South Africa. It was a long time coming though as New Zealand’s first victory was almost a quarter of a century ago when they won the first ever Rugby World Cup back in 1987.
New Zealand captured its second Web Ellis Trophy with a tight 8-7 win over France in front of their home fans at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. There were some similarities between this win and their first triumph since they also beat France at home in the inaugural tournament in 87. However, things weren’t so close 24 years ago as they beat the French by 29-9 back then.
The All Blacks have long been considered by many fans and experts to be the best rugby squad in the world and now they have proof, at least until the next tournament takes place in England in 2015. New Zealand was heavy favorites to win the cup heading into the 2011 event as they were the host nation. They were also heavily favored in the final game since they had already beaten France 37-17 in the group stage of the tournament.
In addition, France was also beaten 19-14 by Tonga, making them the first team in World Cup history to reach the final after losing two group games. New Zealand went unbeaten in the tournament with wins over Tonga (41-10), Japan (83-7), France (37-17), and Canada (79-15) in the group stage before beating Argentina (33-10) in the quarterfinals and Australia (20-6) in the semis. France knocked out England (19-12) in the quarterfinals and got by Wales 9-8 in the semifinals.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and coach Graham Henry were over the moon with the victory and said the whole country should be proud of the achievement. They said the team was under enormous pressure and it managed to dig down as deep as possible to ensure the cup came back to New Zealand. It was as close as a game can get with New Zealand taking a 5-0 lead in the 15th minute after a try by Tony Woodcock. They extended the lead to 8-0 lead in the 45th minute when Stephen Donald kicked a penalty.
It didn’t take long for France to reply after that as captain Thierry Dusautoir narrowed the gap to 8-5 in just 120 seconds later and Francois Trinh-Duc scored on the conversion to make it 8-7. The crowd of 61,000 then witnessed some of the most intense action in a rugby final as France poured it on over the last 23 minutes of the game, but weren’t able to penetrate the All Blacks excellent defense.
France manager Marc Lievremont told reporters after the game that he was sad at losing, but still very proud of his players. He said his team proved they were just as good as New Zealand, even if they didn’t manage to win the game.
Along with two World Cup triumphs, New Zealand were runners up in 1995, finished in third place in 1991 and 2003, and were fourth-place finishers in 1999. France was runner up in 1999 as well after Australia beat them 35-12. They also have two fourth-place and a third-place finish in the 20-team event over the years.