It wasn't as convincing as many expected but the All Blacks held on to claim an 8-7 win over France and with it their second World Cup.
It was not as convincing as many fans expected but the All Blacks held on to claim an 8-7 success over France and with it their second World Cup crown.
Les Bleus were a completely different side to the one that had fallen to the 2011 hosts and also Tonga during the Pool stages. And they pushed the Kiwis right up until the death in a highly-charged 80 minutes at Eden Park on Sunday.
But New Zealand managed to beat their rivals who had caused them such bother in the past, ultimately banishing their 1999 and 2007 ghosts.
The score has a certain eeriness to it too – '87?
Auckland was alive with All Blacks supporters all afternoon as the whole population hoped for an end to their 20 years of Webb Ellis hurt. Tickets were not sold out however as only hours before kick-off, sales were still going: cheapest for $401 ranging up to Â£1280 for the most expensive.
France meanwhile had banked on proving that their 6/1 bookmaker price for a game of such magnitude was way off the mark, and they duly racked up the phases inside opposition territory. This followed les Bleus not backing down from the Kapa O Pango – in fact they walked into it.
A marker was well-and-truly thrown down by France.
It was always going to be key for France to deprive New Zealand of the same start they enjoyed against the Wallabies and that was exactly what they managed, keeping the All Blacks away from the red zone despite an early penalty miss from fan favourite Piri Weepu.
Their starvation attempt did not last as back came the All Blacks following a solid touch-finder from scrum-half Weepu. And from that ensuing line-out, superb off-the-top ball back inside to Tony Woodcock saw the prop ghost through unopposed. Cue a big sigh of relief.
Suddenly the momentum had swung while Morgan Parra continued to struggle, which eventually led to Francois Trinh-Duc replacing him. France were not going to be alone in losing their fly-half though as six minutes before the break, Aaron Cruden exited injured.
Breakdown supremacy was also always going to be vital and as is their wont in 2011, the All Blacks soon dominated matters, which should have resulted in another three from Weepu. However, the former Hurricane looked like he was kicking in one with another missed shot.
Despite those eight points from the tee having gone begging, there was little worrying New Zealand heading past the half-hour mark but as this nation had become accustomed to, France aren't to be taken lightly, particularly with only a five-point lead taken into the sheds.
Marc Lievremont was clearly encouraged from what he had seen from his charges and sent the French back out from the break with the greater intent, but this time it was they who counted the cost of a penalty miss. Dimitri Yachvili sending the ball just wide of the uprights.
It looked like New Zealand had made the visitors pay for that failed attempt when first-half replacement Stephen Donald slotted from bang in front, but as the French have a habit of doing in this tournament, they soon came back to haunt their hosts. Thierry Dusautoir it was who crossed as the All Blacks fell asleep in defence following Donald's effort. The visiting captain burrowed his way over close to the post to make it an easy conversion for Trinh-Duc.
Suddenly the nerves of yesteryear were weighing on the hearts and shoulders of the 61,000 supporters at Eden Park as play nervously pitched itself on the halfway line coming up to the hour mark. That aforementioned 6/1 bookies price tag had become a great amount shorter.
France had the chance to snatch an unlikely World Cup crown on 63 minutes when Trinh-Duc lined up a 45-metre penalty but it proved unsuccessful as New Zealand weathered both the French storm and the pressure they'd put on themselves after almost a quarter-of-a-century without the Webb Ellis trophy.
The game was on a knife edge right until the final moments but the hosts just managed to hold on and end 24 years of waiting for their second RWC, McCaw left holding the prize.
Man of the match: Yet another towering performance from Imanol Harinordoquy has gone into the locker of the Biarritz stalwart. The number eight proved once again he is a must in this French line-up as he foiled several home line-outs, ran well in open play and also had a good night in close quarters. However, along with Thierry Dusautoir, Richie McCaw put in captain's performance on Sunday and was colossal at the breakdown. Big game effort.
Moment of the match: It had looked like France were going to upset New Zealand in 1999, 2007 and now 2011 when Francois Trinh-Duc lined up a long-range penalty attempt with only a quarter of the game remaining. The replacement fly-half did not get hold of his attempt though and that proved the difference between the two when it came down to it.
Villain of the match: A game played in good spirits. Nothing to report.
For New Zealand:
France: 15 Maxime MÃ©dard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 AurÃ©lien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal PapÃ©, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc, 22 Damien Traille.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.
Referee: Craig Joubert
By Adam Kyriacou at Eden Park