World Cup glory for the All Blacks - just

Mike Kilpatrick at Eden Park
Yahoo Sport

The All Blacks have claimed their second World Cup with a dramatic and hard-fought 8-7 win over France at Eden Park.

It wasn't a classic final with both teams losing their first-five eights in the first half as the game fractured.

The injury to Aaron Cruden brought Stephen Donald on, a man who has polarised rugby supporters in New Zealand for years.

But he stepped up- and ultimately it was his penalty which got the All Blacks over the line.

The All Blacks played the last 20 minutes of the game in their own half and with their backs to the wall - but brilliant defence allowed them to hold on and France couldn't break through.

Much like the pool match between the two old rivals the French had the better of the opening minutes without ever threatening the line.

The All Blacks had the first shot at goal in the sixth minute after Morgan Parra strayed offside at a breakdown but Piri Weepu dragged the ball well wide.

Despite losing the early territory battle it was the All Blacks who opened the try count in the 15th minute with a brilliant move straight off the training ground.

A lineout 10 metres out was claimed by Kaino and the forwards parted like the Red Sea in front of Tony Woodcock and the prop took the drop pass from his flanker to ease over the line

Loose handling by French captain Thierry Dusautoir then allowed New Zealand to do what it does best - counter-attack with pace - but referee Craig Joubert saw some hands in the ruck and France cleared.

Suddenly the All Blacks were looking confident with the ball in hand and were stretching the French defence with accurate passing and strong running.

Parra, who had spent some time in the blood bin early in the match was forced permanently from the field midway through the half, Francois Trinh-Duc his replacement.

Weepu's off-night with the boot continued as the half-hour approached, the cult hero pushing the ball wide once more after France handled in the ruck.

France finally got into the New Zealand twenty-two courtesy of a deflected clearance, but two mistakes, the first a knock-on by experienced hooker William Servat allowed New Zealand to clear.

The All Blacks were then dealt a massive blow in the 33rd minute. Aaron Cruden, a late arrival in the World Cup squad to replace Dan Carter, suffered a game-ending knee injury.

Stephen Donald, the man who was white-baiting when he got the call to replace Colin Slade in the squad, was then forced into the biggest match of his life.

That seemed to stun the All Blacks and a poor kick from Nonu allowed France to counter-attack and only a desperate tackle in the All Blacks 10-metre line stopped the French attack.

With France coming more into the game the All Blacks seemed glad to kick to touch and end the first half and get a team-talk from Graham Henry and his assistant coaches.

France came out firing at the start of the second half and a run from Aurelien Rougerie put the underdogs on the front foot.

The All Blacks counter-rucked when the big centre was finally tackled, but Richie McCaw used his hands and the penalty was awarded.

Thankfully for the huge home support Dimitri Yachvili pushed his kick just wide of the uprights as one of the biggest upsets ever remained on the cards.

Another penalty against the French at the breakdown gave Donald his first shot at goal in the 45th minute, and the man heading off to the UK to further his career after the World Cup, made no mistake.

But just as it looked like the All Blacks were going to retain control, France scored the try that put them right back into the game.

Weepu had plenty of time at the ruck to clear the ball but it was kicked through and after working the ball right and left captain Dusautoir broke the tackle and scored. Trinh-Duc converted.

Weepu then put the kick-off straight into touch, forcing All Blacks coach Henry to make a quick call and the out-of-form halfback was immediately withdrawn for Andy Ellis.

With just 20 minutes left on the clock the horror memories of the World Cup failures of 1999 and 2007 were once more to the fore.

The French got a massive drive on at a scrum in midfield and with the All Blacks' forwards being forced up referee Joubert correctly gave the penalty to France.

The crowd held their breath and a massive sigh of relief was exhaled as Trinh-Duc pushed the 48-metre penalty wide.

With just 10 minutes left the All Blacks were virtually impotent on attack and were content to play for territory to keep the French out.

The defence was impeccable, but with France hovering in New Zealand territory the whole crowd knew it was only one penalty away from disaster.

A knock-on with just three minutes left on the clock finally gave the All Blacks some possession, even if it was deep in their own half.

New Zealand seemed content to just try and roll the ball up a yard at a time but France, pushing for a turnover, gave away a penalty to ease the nerves.

With just 40 seconds on the clock Brad Thorn claimed the lineout and the All Blacks drove for their lives.

They held on to the ball for what seemed like hours and with injury time being played the ball was finally kicked into touch.

Celebration and relief, in equal doses. swept Eden Park and 24 years of hurt was finally open.

New Zealand 8 (Tony Woodcock try, Stephen Donald pen)
France 7 (Theirry Dusautoir try, Francois Trinh-Duc con)

H/T: 5-0

Attendance: 61,079