Richie McCaw lifted the Rugby World Cup as fireworks, streamers and jets of flame shot into the sky at Twickenham after New Zealand defeated Australia in the 2015 final on Saturday.
With laser lights piercing through the dry ice, the All Blacks captain gave The Webb Ellis Cup a kiss as the party began on the pitch and in the stands after their 34-17 victory inflicted Halloween misery on their old rivals.
New Zealand’s victorious players drenched each other in champagne and performed a celebratory Haka war dance as they completed a lap of honour on becoming the first side to win the World Cup three times.
Chants of “All Blacks! All Blacks!” rang round the stadium as the winners received their medals and took their places on the podium, with coach Steve Hansen the last one up.
Prince Harry, the honorary president of the England 2015 organisers — and fifth in line to become the monarch of both Australia and New Zealand — presented the trophy.
After the Wallabies completed a forlorn lap of honour, Harry shared a few words and a handshake with McCaw before the skipper thrust the trophy into the air.
His side then broke out the champagne under another blitz of fireworks from the stadium roof.
The All Blacks embraced each other in a giant huddle at the final whistle, which completed a Halloween nightmare for Wallabies fans who had watched Australia narrow the deficit from 18 points to four.
The job of carving New Zealand onto the trophy stand for the third time fell to master engraver Keith O’Connell from London silversmiths Thomas Lyte, who busily got to work when the final whistle went.
Before kick-off, several rugby fanatics were drifting round outside the southwest London stadium desperately looking for spare tickets as the England 2015 tournament reached its climax.
One exhausted-looking woman from New Zealand had a sign saying she had flown 26 hours to be at the final, and now just needed a ticket.
“I’m tense, I’m shaking,” said Ian Harper, dressed from head to toe in Australian gold.
Some wore full Halloween skeleton costumes as they milled around in the autumn sunshine, an unusually warm 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit).
– Fever pitch –
Among the 80,125 inside the packed stadium, Queen Elizabeth II’s 94-year-old husband Prince Philip and Harry’s brother Prince William, second in line to the throne, completed the royal contingent.
Australian pop star Kylie Minogue was also in the crowd, as was New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key.
Melbourne-born global media baron Rupert Murdoch turned up with Jerry Hall, the former partner of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, both wearing Australia scarves.
The teams ran onto the Twickenham pitch to a cacophony of noise amid the flames and fireworks.
There was a huge roar as the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows aerobatics display team flew overhead, streaming red, white and blue smoke through the air just as the teams lined up for the national anthems, the atmosphere reaching fever pitch.
Substitute Keven Mealamu led the All Blacks through the Kapa o Pango version of their Haka war dance, performed only at their biggest matches.
New Zealand prised open the Australia defence just before the interval, when wing Nehe Milner-Skudder crossed the tryline.
“It’s looking comfortable,” said Terry Dunleavy, 51, from Auckland, as he contemplated the 16-3 half-time scoreline.
“We’re fitter, stronger and we’re strangling them.”
Campbell, 34, from Melbourne, said: “I came with low expectations and I shan’t be disappointed.”
Just two minutes into the second half, New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu dashed through the Wallabies’ defence for a second All Blacks try.
But Australia fans were revitalised when New Zealand’s Ben Smith was sin-binned in the 57th minute and No 8 David Pocock immediately scored a try, with centre Tevita Kuridrani adding another 11 minutes later.
That racked up the tension, with New Zealand 21-17 ahead with 10 minutes left, but man-of-the-match Dan Carter’s drop goal and a long-range penalty five minutes from time set the All Blacks clear.
And when replacement Beauden Barrett ran through to score a third try for New Zealand, All Blacks fans were in raptures. – Agence France-Presse