LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - New Zealand finally showed they could win a World Cup away from home after dismantling a gallant but outclassed Australia 34-17 in a final on Saturday that defined their golden era.
With their two previous triumphs, in 1987 and 2011, both coming in the home confines of Eden Park, Auckland, the All Blacks won their first World Cup on foreign soil with a sublime display from flyhalf Dan Carter on his final international appearance.
Ruthless, resilient and with a skillset and tactical brilliance that every other team still aspires to reach, New Zealand hit the Wallabies hard from the first whistle and despite a second-half wobble, closed out the game with no major concerns.
That their big stage performers were players finishing their international careers only added to the occasion.
The All Blacks retained the core of the side that took them to victory four years ago. Carter, Conrad Smith and Ma‘a Nonu all played strongly with inspirational captain Richie McCaw leading his backrow into the fray.
New Zealand dominated the first half to the extent that they enjoyed over 70 percent of the possession and a 16-3 lead at the turnaround was no more than they deserved.
Australia, as expected, competed tigerishly at the breakdown with David Pocock again proving the master of the turnover but relentless pressure gave Carter the chance to put points on the board.
Conrad Smith’s final lasted only 40 minutes but he set the tone with a big early hit on Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper and his midfield partnership with Nonu, the last time they will appear together as All Blacks, gave New Zealand the platform to attack.
Great Australian defence kept the scores level for the first 20 minutes but with the elusive Nehe Milner-Skudder and hard-running Nonu making metres, the pressure told with the opening try before halftime.
Smith’s run drew defenders towards him and created the space that allowed swift hands to put Milner-Skudder over in the corner.
It was an angle that Smith has run countless times and another example of what experience and a fine rugby brain can do.
Australia had not been in New Zealand’s 22 with ball in hand in the entire first half and desperately needed a momentum shift.
That seemed a forlorn hope when Nonu turned on the afterburners to leave Kurtley Beale for dead to score a second New Zealand try but Ben Smith’s yellow card then allowed the Wallabies to counter.
Counter they did with two tries in 11 minutes that closed the deficit to four points and it was game on.
Suddenly with their backs to the wall, the All Blacks needed to take the sting out of the tail and in Carter had the man to do so with a brilliant drop goal.
His long-range penalty five minutes later put the game beyond reach before Beauden Barrett’s try put the icing on the cake and Carter converted. (Reporting by Justin Palmer; editing by Julian Linden)