New Zealand 34 – 17 Australia (half-time 16-3)

New Zealand showed their class at Twickenham yesterday to seal a memorable Rugby World Cup final success over their arch rivals Australia. In so doing, the All Blacks became the first country to successfully defend their World Cup crown and to claim a third title. Despite a battling comeback from their antipodean opponents after the Kiwis were reduced to 14 men in the second-half, Richie McCaw’s men re-grouped once more to surge away for a deserved 34-17 victory.

Kiwis set the pace early on

The Kiwis led 16-3 at the break, after a competitive kicking contest had been highlighted by a wonderful team move that resulted in a try for Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Dan Carter had added to his record tally during the first-half, as Bernard Foley scored Australia’s only points in what was a relatively slow start to the game for them.

Nonu scorched over for a try

When the reigning champions’ Ma'a Nonu marked his final international game with a wonderful individual try after the break, the match looked to be over as a contest at 21-3. The experienced centre burst through the Australian defence, neatly sidestepped past the last defender and then had just enough gas left in the tank to reach the line. You can’t keep a good Aussie down for long though!

Aussies fought back

Hopes of an unlikely Aussie comeback were heightened on 52 mins when Drew Mitchell was subjected to what the officials (upon TMO referral) decided was a 'spear tackle'.

The always contentious decision resulted in Ben Smith being sin-binned for ten minutes.

The Wallabies took immediate retribution as David Pocock drove over for a try. Foley converted to leave an interesting last 26 minutes, the score-line having improved dramatically for the underdogs, despite still showing a 21-10 lead for the Kiwis.

Australia cranked up the pressure with their man advantage, sensing a chink in the reigning champions' armour at last. The comeback continued as a speculative kick ahead by Aussie scrum-half Will Genia bounced up perfectly for Adam Ashley-Cooper, the winger shifting the ball inside for Tevita Kuridrani to go over for another five- point score.

Foley's conversion brought the Australians within four points just as sin-binned Smith came back on to the pitch. It seemed to be game (back) on at 21-17.

Carter steadied the ship

McCaw's men were rocking but one of the old heads steadied the ship. A well-timed drop goal from 40 yards by Carter ensured that his side stretched their lead at 24-17. A priceless penalty by the same player from the half-way line was tantamount to clinching the match and with it the Rugby World Cup crown at 27-17.

Icing on the Kiwi cake from Barrett

The Aussies bravely battled forward once more but were caught out on the counter-attack as the ball was spilled, following energetic defending and heroic tackling by the determined Kiwis.

Ben Smith’s clearance was followed up by Beauden Barrett who retained his composureto put the final nail in the Wallabies' coffin. Carter converted to clinch a marvellous finale to an entertaining tournament 34-17.

Carter made man of the match

A fitting end to the competition and a man of the match performance by the outgoing Carter, who had missed the final four years ago. The leading points’ scorer of all time and one of the best players the game has ever seen bowed out on the top of his game.

Carter is among a six-man shortlist for the World Rugby Player of the Year, alongside countryman Julian Savea and the Aussie pair of Michael Hooper and Pocock. Scotland's Greig Laidlaw and Wales' forward Alun Wyn Jones complete the nominees, yet one can’t help feeling that Carter may have sealed the title after his five-star performance on the greatest stage of all.