New Zealand 34-17 Australia: All Blacks crush Wallabies to retain Rugby World Cup
New Zealand had been the best team in the tournament and they started off at full tilt, pushing Australia back into their own half, dominating possession and looking dangerous going forward. The Wallabies defended desperately – competing well at the breakdown but unable to mount any offence and forced to backpedal as the All Blacks swarmed forward.
An injury to Kane Douglas pushed Australia further on the back foot, and New Zealand smartly chose to grind their opponents down through territorial advantage and fast recycling, reducing the threat of turnovers and keeping the game in Australia's half.
With the first half drawing to a close, Australia had restricted the score to 9-3 and would have been justified in considering that a good score to take into the break.
In the 39th minute, the game changed as New Zealand switched their performance up a gear, changing the angle of attack in Australia's 22-meter line and passing the ball to Richie McCaw and onwards to Milner-Skudder, who slid it over the corner for the first try of the game. Daniel Carter converted, and New Zealand went into half-time at 16-3.
If Australia thought the half time break would give them a chance to regroup, they were wrong. New Zealand made a brilliant play down the short side, recycling through the midfield with Ma'a Nonu getting a huge gap in midfield to thunder through and Nonu scored a 55-meter try to put New Zealand up 21-3. Carter missed the conversion, but the damage was done.
There's always a comeback in games like these and Australia finally rallied around the 50th minute mark, pushing into New Zealand's half and driving the lineout to the 22-meter line, the first time in the game they had possession there in the match.
A yellow card for Ben Smith for a tip-tackle – the first player to be sin binned in a World Cup final – gave Australia the advantage and they used it to maximum effect, scoring two tries in 10 minutes through David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani.
At this point New Zealand looked shaken. Then, Ben Smith returned to restore numerical parity and the brilliant Daniel Carter took over. A drop-goal from 45 meters gave New Zealand breathing room before a penalty from near the half line pushed the score to 27-17. And just like that the Australian comeback was buried.
The Wallabies tried to rally again but the All Blacks shot back in style, Beauden Barrett scoring the final try in the 79th minute and Carter converting to give New Zealand a 34-17 win.
New Zealand are worthy winners, the best team in the tournament with Daniel Carter a deserving man of the match. Australia may have beaten any other team with that second half comeback and it would have made for a thrilling story, but the All Blacks were just too good.