To conclude this series just as the current edition gets going…
2011 was the year of redemption for the All Blacks, at home in New Zealand – but it was close!
The tournament really got going in the quarter finals, each of which was keenly contested aside from New Zealand’s easy win. Two big Northern Hemisphere clashes went the way of France (by totally outplaying a poor England) and Wales (by beating Ireland in every area of the field in the second half to win 22-10). The most bizarre game was the Tri-Nations clash between Australia and South Africa – the Wallabies literally only made it into the South African 22 once in the entire match, but scored a try when they got there and then clung on, with the addition of a dodgy penalty on their only visit to the Springboks’ half in the final quarter, to nick an 11-9 win despite being utterly outplayed.
In the semi, New Zealand unsurprisingly reversed previous defeats to its trans-Tasman rivals with an easy win. The story came in the other match, where Wales, reduced early to 14 men after captain Sam Warburton was red-carded, put in a monumental effort and even mustered the game’s only try, but narrowly missed three kicks in the last half hour to miss out agonisingly 9-8.
The final was similarly low scoring, almost like games of yesteryear, as the occasion got to the hosts. Having comprehensively beaten France in the group, New Zealand staggered through the repeat of the first ever final, and the final whistle on a torturous 8-7 win against a traditional bogey team was greeted with relief as much as jubilation.