James Lawton: Dagg leads assault as champions-elect touch greatness

Australia put through the wringer before the 'unfinished business' of France in the final

New Zealand have won their second World Cup, the first since the inaugural tournament 24 years ago, with rugby that separates itself, at times quite utterly, from the rest of the field.

Some pedants will no doubt rush to point out that Richie McCaw and his men have some details to attend to next weekend, but anyone in Eden Park yesterday will surely point out that all of them, not least the notional opposition of France, are quite inconsequential.

The All Blacks made an unequivocal statement of superiority a few hours after French coach Marc Lièvremont, having discovered that he had not dreamt that France had beaten a 14-man Wales the night before, had once again declared war on his occasionally brilliant but essentially mutinous team.

Australia were not just beaten by New Zealand, the nation they love to taunt. They were put through the rugby equivalent of a threshing machine and it is to their great credit that shortly before the end of an astonishing, powerful first-half showing by the All Blacks they were still trailing by just one score. That was the fact of it but there was another reality. It was that they had performed epically just to avoid dismemberment along with the certainty of defeat.

The New Zealand coach, Graham Henry, who was required to fight for his career after France knocked the All Blacks out of the last World Cup, as they had with a similarly sublime eruption eight years earlier, looked like a man who had been released from jail when he announced: "I am extremely proud of my team. They showed superb character tonight. They knew they had a job to do [twice Australia had ejected New Zealand at the semi-final stage] and now we just have to come down from this match over the next few days. We will not forget we have unfinished business. There is quite a bit of history when we play the French."

Henry, perhaps not surprisingly, saved his highest praise for his captain McCaw, who has been New Zealand's principal cause of concern since national icon Daniel Carter was cut down by injury. McCaw has been playing, and training extremely lightly, on an injured foot but he looked about as impaired as King Kong dismantling the Empire State Building while subduing to the point of oblivion Australia's star flanker David Pocock.

McCaw revealed that at the final scrum Australia's wonderfully resourceful scrum-half Will Genia nodded his respects and conceded that the issue was all run out.

That was a moment of some grace in the history of a rivalry that has from time to time sunk pretty much to gutter level in the matter of mutual abuse and mockery. Yesterday was no time for such pettiness, however, and even Australia's widely reviled New Zealand-born fly-half Quade Cooper, who started the game catastrophically and to a chorus of jeers when he sent the kick-off out of bounds and conceded a scrum, had earned some grudging respect before the end of a draining night. When asked about the Kiwi habit of trashing Cooper, Henry was less than repentant on behalf of his countrymen, pointing out that some of Cooper's past provocations had created inevitable hostility on the terraces and down on the field. But he did concede that Cooper had shown considerable competitive nerve in fighting for a foothold in a game in which Australia's best moment came in a superb run by Digby Ioane.

Had the wing won more than a penalty it would have marked one of the most spectacular comebacks since George Foreman fell victim of rope-a-dope. The All Blacks, though, held the kind of edge enjoyed by Muhammad Ali. It was exerted in one of the most coherent team performances anyone is ever likely to see on a rugby field and was marked by some outstanding individual performances.

Barely a week before, full-back Israel Dagg and wing Cory Jane had to be dragged from a bar in which they had allegedly rendered themselves near senseless. Now they were hell-bent on redemption. Young fly-half Aaron Cruden, third choice behind the stricken maestro Carter, played with such poise and invention that his perfectly struck drop goal seemed routine.

Nothing matched, however, the extraordinary assault launched by Dagg. He had already brought terror to the Australian cover when after six minutes he made an electrifying dash for the line before producing something close to the ultimate off-load, which was exploited with great athleticism by Ma'a Nonu.

It was a try – yes, we can dare to say it, worthy of the new world champions.

Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
With Jo Joyner in 'Trying Again'
tvHe talks to Alice Jones on swapping politics for pillow talk
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Arts & Entertainment
tvJudge for yourself
Life & Style
tech
News
Tough call: is the psychological distress Trott is suffering an illness? (Getty)
healthJonathan Trott and the problems of describing mental illness
Life & Style
23 April 2014: Google marks St George's Day with a drawing depicting England's patron saint slaying a fire-breathing dragon
tech
Life & Style
On the dogwalk: a poodle on the runway during a Mulberry show in London
fashionThe duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
News
peopleEmma Appleton says photographer said he would shoot her for magazine if she slept with him
Extras
indybest
News
peopleRevealed: Goop.com's losses - and the pay rises
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents