The All Blacks have been hailed as worthy - and long overdue - World Cup champions but the international rugby media has also heaped praise on France after an epic final at Eden Park last night.
"In the end they simply could not bear the thought of losing," wrote The Guardian's Robert Kitson of New Zealand's 8-7 win, which ended a 24-year drought at rugby's showpiece tournament.
"Some World Cups are won by a flash of genius or a moment of defensive confusion. This one simply boiled down to the All Blacks' fear of walking off their favourite field as beaten finalists in a game they were expected to win by the length of the North Island.
"In the home coaching box, by Graham Henry's own admission, there was 'turmoil' as France came within an ace of the unthinkable. For a moment it appeared to be deja vu all over again, a grisly flashback to the quarterfinal defeat to the same opponents in Cardiff in 2007. Even the most patriotic Kiwi could not deny that France were demonstrably the better team on the day.
"By the time they have swept up all the tickertape along Queen Street following the open-top bus parade, such minor details will have been forgotten. Nor will it bother the hosts that the South African referee, Craig Joubert, turned in a truly toe-curling first-half performance which helped to save the All Blacks."
In another Guardian piece headlined All Black aristocrats survive French revolution, Eddie Butler said the All Blacks were the best and won at their worst, but also wrote that referee Joubert refereed only one team - France.
In London's Daily Telegraph, chief rugby writer Mick Cleary said the All Blacks were deserved champions.
"In the end New Zealand were just grateful to hang on, the forwards picking and going only inches at a time to run the clock down for four long minutes. But they managed it, and the celebrations right throughout the land began. It was going to be a long night but a joyous one.
"It was a deserved accolade to have claimed in the end for the double act of coach and captain, Graham Henry and Richie McCaw, these two great men warranted all the plaudits they would receive."
However, an online poll of the Daily Telegraph's readers believed the French were hard done by, with more than two-thirds of readers saying Les Bleus were the better team and deserved to win the final.
The newspaper gave a rare 10-out-of-10 to France captain Thierry Dusautoir, who was simply sensational in his man-of-the-match performance, while Cleary wrote that there would be gnashing of teeth in Britain as New Zealand looked "utterly paralysed by the occasion".
"Kiwi endeavour may have finally borne fruit but across Europe the sickly stench of missed opportunity will linger for months."
In the Sydney Morning Herald, chief rugby writer Greg Growden said the win was fitting for New Zealand, given the disasters which have transpired here in recent times.
"The 24-year All Black gloom has lifted," he said.
"Finally light, peace and relief for a long-suffering New Zealand. A country that has hemorrhaged badly through the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake and Pike River mining disaster can find relief in the fact that they are again officially the world's best in what they do best - playing, living and breathing rugby.
"After all, it is their game. A rejuvenating game, but still a cruel game. It is an all-encompassing passion that has given them so much anguish - long stretches of nationwide depression in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007, but not in 2011 when it was again became New Zealand's glorious game. The New Zealand rugby heart is once more in union."
In Wales, the Western Mail's website, WalesOnline, said New Zealand ended 24 years of hurt by being crowned world champions at an emotion-charged Eden Park, "but only after perceived no-hopers France gave them a colossal fright".
"Richie McCaw lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy as New Zealand ended a tournament they started as red-hot favourites 45 days ago with rugby union's golden prize ultimately in their grasp.
"France, though, delivered a performance of which few people thought they were capable, having lost to New Zealand and Tonga in the pool phase and then edged past 14-man semi-final opponents Wales.
"But they shook, rattled and almost rolled over an All Blacks side that just overcame debilitating big-night nerves."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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