Wallabies fight to the end in 34-17 defeat to New Zealand in Rugby World Cup 2015 final

by Staff Writer

The Wallabies finished Rugby World Cup 2015 runners-up at Twickenham on Saturday, despite a gallant defensive effort against New Zealand in their fourth Rugby World Cup Final, ultimately defeated 34-17 in a match that lived up to its lofty expectations.

After a gruelling run through the tournament, the Wallabies had to put up one more fight and they drew on everything in front of a sold-out Twickenham Stadium.

Narrowing an 18-point deficit to just four midway through the second half, the Wallabies never stopped competing in yet another brutal contest. Tries to David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani during a 10-minute surge during the second half in the end was not enough to stop the New Zealanders from claiming back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles.

The Wallabies' defence was put under the spotlight yet again in a physical opening half, with Australia making 68 tackles to 31 but conceding just one try.

Australia's scramble defence proved enough early, despite the Wallabies trailing in the possession and territory counts. New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter had the opening points of the match, kicking a penalty in the eighth minute to open up an early three-point advantage.

Fullback Israel Folau played with renewed confidence after battling an ankle concern prior to the match, stepping up to the big occasion despite limited opportunities in attack in the opening half, eventually making 99 metres - the most of any Wallabies player.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley drew scores level, converting a 14th minute scrum penalty from almost in front of the posts.

Australia had to battle against early injury blows, with lock Kane Douglas (knee) and inside centre Matt Giteau (concussion) being replaced within the first half hour by Dean Mumm and Kurtley Beale.

Both replacements made seamless transitions into the match, with Beale a major threat in attack, making 91 metres as one of the Wallabies' best o the day. Mumm picked up where Douglas left off, leading Australia's tackle count on the night with 15.

The Wallabies' back row began to take control at the breakdown, with a turnover to Michael Hooper and another to Scott Fardy in a handful of minutes, keeping the Aussies in the contest.

Carter had a second penalty in the 27th minute after the Wallabies were penalised for a high tackle, taking the margin back to three points, before his third in the 35th made it six.

With just one minute to go until half-time, New Zealand winger Nehe Milner-Skudder snuck over in the right corner after some slight of hand by the New Zealand forwards, as the men in black capitalised on a clinical first half to take a 16-3 lead into the break.

Centre Ma'a Nonu added a second five-pointer for the defending champions two minutes into the second half, slicing through the middle of the field off a clever Sonny Bill Williams offload and the Wallabies' character was tested as the minutes ticked down with the margin at 21-3.

Two electrifying runs - one from Drew Mitchell and then a sideline sprint from Beale - lit up the Australian supporters.

A dangerous Ben Smith tackle on Mitchell in the 52nd minute gave the Wallabies a one-man advantage deep on the attack, and it was here that the match took on a whole new complexion.

It took Australia just one minute to capitalise on the foul, with David Pocock scoring his third try of the tournament off a driving maul. Pocock continued his damaging form with three turnovers and 11 tackles to go with his five-pointer.

A kicking duel resulted in a spectacular Wallabies try in the 63rd minute, with Bernard Foley gathering a sideline kick from Will Genia before offloading to Tevita Kuridrani, who burst away from the New Zealand defence and crashed over to spark hopes of a stunning revival.

Foley's conversion of the try narrowed the margin to just four points with 17 minutes to play.

Then came the moment when Dan Carter, who missed the 2011 decider through injury, halted the Aussie surge with a perfectly-struck drop goal from 40 metres out to give New Zealand a 7-point buffer with 11 minutes remaining.

The Wallabies continued to battle and kept asking questions of the New Zealanders in defence, until a late breakaway try to replacement Beauden Barrett sealed the deal in the shadows of full time. Carter's conversion was the final act, making the final score 34-17.

Australia 17 (David Pocock, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Bernard Foley 2 cons, pen) defeated by New Zealand 34 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ma'a Nonu, Beauden Barrett tries; Dan Carter 2 cons, 4 pens, drop goal)

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