Sunday, October 23 marked a momentous day for international rugby fans. For the first time in 24 years, New Zealand was awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup, and the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, captured victory on its home pitch at Eden Park in Auckland.
Beginning in 1987, the Rugby Union World Cup has taken place every 4 years in countries around the world. The first tournament took place in Australia and New Zealand as the two nations co-hosted the event. The 1987 World Cup resulted in a win for New Zealand over a French opposition. Despite intense support, and an amazing pool of talent, the Kiwis’ beloved All Blacks would see a 24 year World Cup drought following their first international victory. That is, until yesterday, when New Zealand beat France in a tightly contested 8-7 victory.
Getting off to slow start, the All Blacks sustained early French attacks, but neither side managed to put up any points until the 15th minute when New Zealand’s Tony Woodcock scored his first World Cup try, his team’s only in the game. The All Black’s main kicker since losing Dan Carter earlier in the tournament, Peri Weepu missed the conversion kick on the try, leaving the score at 5 – 0. (Weepu had three missed kicks on the day.) Three minutes later, when presented with a penalty kick, All Blacks elected Stephen Donald to take the kick. Ultimately a fourth choice alternate, Donald only saw playing time due to an injury ridden All Blacks lineup. However, when faced with the daunting task of threading two very unforgiving uprights, Donald hit what turned out to be a game winning penalty kick, making the score 8 – 0.
The French were down, but certainly not out and managed to respond with a try and conversion of their own, which brought the score to 8 – 7. Largely outplaying New Zealand in the second half of the game, the visiting team certainly proved that they deserved to be in the final. However, New Zealand’s defense managed to hold the French to their 7 points, and eventually took the cup in an emotional and nerve-wracking win at Eden Park.
Parades in Auckland and Wellington are already scheduled to take place this week and the celebration is likely to continue for quite some time as a devoted nation of All Blacks fans finally receives the ultimate reward. Go All Blacks!