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.

Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star