So the All Blacks made it, just. 8-7. The score doesn’t convey what a great game it was. The intensity shown by both teams, from start to finish, was amazing. Maybe if Piri Weepu’s boot was firing in the first half there would have been no chance of a French comeback. But when France got their try and moved within one point, it really felt like it was theirs to win. Another French comeback against the AB’s looked on. Like I said in the previous blog, I was torn.
But New Zealand were brilliant in the way they slowly reasserted control – through all those Northern Hemisphere ways (kicking, up-the-jumper mauls…) that tend to come to the fore when it’s knockout rugby – and they came out winners. It was agonising – just one infringement from a kickable distance and France might have triumphed.
The French deserve massive credit, they’ve been vilified throughout the tournament, almost as much as England, but they were superb today. They took the game to New Zealand, they tackled and rucked heroically. It was a more even game than anyone expected. How they let it slip at times, like the Tonga game, is mystifying. One day, surely, they must win the World Cup. 2015 in England?
I missed the Haka and France’s V-shaped advance. I couldn’t get my Sky box to work! Saw it in the ITV analysis at the end. It was dramatic – but I remember years ago Wales getting criticised for doing something similar, without the V-shape, for disrespecting the Haka.
If there is an outstanding hero, it has to be the obvious one, Richie McCaw. At the end, as he collected the trophy, he was clearly limping: that metatarsal or whatever it was. But during the game would you have known it? Never. There was a moment, I think in the second half, when the French, with a brilliant strike, got a turnover and sent the ball wide. Another ruck ensued, and the ferocity with which New Zealand reclaimed the ball, as if the previous turnover was a deep affront, said everything. Richie McCaw was right in there, as ever.
The right result for rugby, but hail the French too. It was truly magnifique.