It was the perfect opportunity; time up on the clock, the ball hoofed down into Australian territory, and lone defender Quade Cooper bundled into touch by three marauding All Blacks to end the match. How easy it would have been for one of them to stand over Cooper and deliver those wonderful words "Four more years son; four more years".
The All Blacks didn't have to do that though. They had teared into the Australians which such fury that the match had long been won to the delight of the capacity Eden Park crowd, and to pubs and living rooms the length and breadth of New Zealand. It was an emphatic performance by the All Blacks.
The platform was laid by the All Black forwards. They tore into rucks and mauls with an intensity which was bordering on frightening. Too often star Aussie flanker David Pocock was involved in the tackle (a brilliant tactic by the All Black coaches) to be a factor at the breakdown, and the All Blacks prospered as a result. The scrum was rock-solid, and the lineout functioned as well as it has in the Henry era. It was wonderful to watch. Keven Mealamu played possibly his best match as an All Black, and Brad Thorn carried the ball with the energy of a man half his age. And Kieran Read gets better with each appearance at this tournament; we are a different team with him in the mix.
Piri Weepu had a mixed game (compared with the previous week; possibly an unfair comparison, but outside him Aaron Cruden belied his years and lack of test match experience. His 40m drop goal in the first half was just one example of his remarkable composure. The midfield was as strong as ever, especially on defence, and Cory Jane was sensational in the air. And at the back, Israel Dagg was our Kurtley Beale.
The New Zealand kept Australia tryless was especially satisfying. We've been told for years that defence wins Rugby World Cups, and although the contest for Bill is a week away, that held true last night. The All Black defence was simply magnificent, even at the end after Sonny Bill Williams was sinbinned for a shoulder-charge. Richie McCaw led from the front, and one tackle, where Will Genia was driven back 10m by McCaw typified the All Black defensive effort.
The Australians tried hard, but were simply outgunned. They weren't helped by Cooper having the first half from hell, to the delight of the crowd, and our living room! Their turn will come, but not in 2011.
The replay of RWC 1987 is now complete. Wales will play Australia in the play-off for third and fourth, and New Zealand will go head to head with France in the money match. Although the French are unpredictable, we can't see anything in the future other than an All Black victory. Complacency will be their biggest enemy, but we're sure that after investing eight years of their lives into this side, Messrs Henry, Hansen and Smith won't allow that to happen.
For now though, let's bask in the glory of one of the best performances of the Henry/McCaw era; in a match with everything on the line, the All Blacks stood up to the challenge and prevailed. It's a delight to wake up this Monday morning, sleep-deprived though we may be.
Congratulations guys; now do it again next week, and you can have the best summer break of your rugby careers!