Dan Carter left the international stage as New Zealand’s hero in their historic World Cup win over Australia that opened up a new era of All Black domination of rugby.
The 33-year-old world record points scorer hit a decisive drop goal for the second straight game to guide his side to a 34-17 triumph that left rivals wondering what they have to do to knock the rugbykings off their throne.
New Zealand became the first team to win the cup three times, the first to win two straight tournaments and it was the first time they have won the World Cup away from home.
“This was all about New Zealand. They thoroughly deserved their win. They’ve been the best team all tournament, they’ve played really well,” said Australia’s battered captain Stephen Moore whose side staged a stunning second half fightback when New Zealand were reduced to 14 men for 10 jittery minutes.
Carter said winning was the “ultimate achievement.”
“Becoming the first team to retain the trophy shows how special this side is.”
The New Zealand victory was an incredible end to what World Rugby president Bernard Lapasset has called the “best” World Cup ever — 48 matches in front of record attendances.
Carter kicked 19 points in his last international to take his record points tally to 1,598.
As in the semi-final, when New Zealand were under pressure he took control with a drop kick — this time a blistering 51 metre rocket that all-but killed Australia’s hopes of getting back into the game.
Ma’a Nonu also scored one of the tries of the tournament. He touched down at the end of a storming 40 metre run after a brilliant pass from replacement Sonny Bill Williams. Williams gave his winner’s medal to a boy tackled by a security guard when he ran on the pitch to join the end-of-match celebrations.
With Australia putting up valiant resistance, Conrad Smith, Aaron Smith and New Zealand captain Richie McCaw combined to put Nehe Milner Skudder over in the corner for the first try on the stroke of half-time.
Beauden Barrett scored the All Blacks third try minutes from the end.
New Zealand had 10 minutes of doubt after Ben Smith became the first player to be sent to the sin-bin in a World Cup final.
Wallaby David Pocock scored one try to show why he is a powerful candidate to become world player of the year. Tevita Kuridrani also went across and with the conversions Australia were within four points at 21-17.
Ben Smith returned and Carter launched his huge kick to steady the ship. Barrett’s try put the result beyond doubt and New Zealand players and fans erupted into a long night of partying as the final whistle went.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said Carter and captain McCaw, playing in a record 148th Test, were the best players in All Black history.
– All Blacks’ best –
“Richie is the best All Black we have ever had and Dan is a close second,” he said.
“The challenge for the other guys now is to to try and become as great as him and Dan.”
Carter is definitely leaving the All Blacks as he is going to France’s Top 14 championship and New Zealand do not pick foreign-based players.
Test centurions Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Ma’a Nonu are also stepping away from internationals as is centre Conrad Smith, a veteran of 94 Tests.
Team skipper McCaw, 34, has been tipped to retire but said he was so excited by the win that he would not think about his future until he returns home.
“I still don’t want it to end to be honest,” he said. “At the moment I am still part of this team. I am going to enjoy today, and how could you get enough of this?”
McCaw said he was “hugely satisfied” with the win.
Australian coach Michael Cheika said New Zealand’s rivals had to keep trying to end the run of the All Blacks who have been the world’s number one ranked team since 2009.
Cheika, who took over Australia 12 months ago when they were in disarray, said: “You just stay at it: keep trying to improve, keep testing yourself again.”
He added: “You’ve got to mark yourself against the best and I think we’ve made good ground over the last 12 months.”
Carter and Wallaby hero Pocock are the leading contenders for the player of the year award to be announced Sunday.
South Africa won the third place playoff, beating Argentina 24-13 at London’s Olympic stadium on Friday night. – Agence France-Presse