New Zealand (16) 34
Tries: Milner-Skudder, Nonu, Barrett
Conversions: Carter 2
Penalties: Carter 4
Drop goal: Carter
Australia (3) 17
Tries: Pocock, Kurindrani
Conversions: Foley 2
New Zealand survived a stunning second half comeback from Australia to become the first side to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup after a barnstorming final at Twickenham. Nehe Milner-Sudder and Ma'a Nonu's tries had the All Blacks dreaming of a first title on foreign soil before a yellow card for Ben Smith allowed the Wallabies to stage a fine revival.
David Pocock and Tevita Kurindrani scored while New Zealand were down to 14-men to bring Australia within four points but following Dan Carter's remarkable drop goal and penalty, amid 19 points from the fly-half, Beuaden Barrett's breakaway try secured Steve Hansen's side a record third crown. Australia threw everything at them in the second 40 minutes, after trailing by 13 points at the interval, but they were outlasted by their southern hemisphere rivals.
Victory gives Carter, who missed the 2011 final through injury, and captain Richie McCaw a fitting end to their international careers and ends a four-year cycle since winning the World Cup on home soil where New Zealand lost just three of their 54 matches. Michael Cheika is meanwhile left to contemplate reaching a final just a year on from taking over a Wallaby side in turmoil and turning them into potential world champions.
A World Cup full of enterprise, excitement an southern hemisphere dominance would be given a fitting send-off with the defining meeting of New Zealand and Australia's 155-match rivalry seeing the only two unbeaten sides in the tournament collide in a colossal encounter. Both teams were seeking to claim their third title with the All Blacks aiming to become the first side to defend their crown and claim a maiden overseas victory, while the Wallabies had an unbeaten World Cup record on British shores to protect following their wins in 1991 and 1999.
Though Cheika's side has recorded just one victory in the last twelve meetings with the reigning champions, the Rugby Championship clinching win in Sydney eight weeks previous - one of only three suffered by New Zealand since their World Cup win - had provide evidence his side could rouse themselves against rugby's number one raked nation. Underpinned by breakdown specialists Michael Hooper and Pocock the underdogs has slalomed their way through to their third final with nervy wins over Scotland and Argentina.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's tilt at a third title not only had history hinging on it, but also marked the swansong for the five most capped players in its nation's history. Captain McCaw and fly-half Carter - playing in his first final - were among the players looking for a storybook ending to their international careers, departing a team tantalisingly close to being regarded as the best global sporting institution ever.
And following an epic haka which shook Twickenham to its very core, the defending champions producing a stinging and intense start courtesy of big early hits from Ben Franks and Conrad Smith, leaving opposition skipper Stephen Moore with a bloody nose. Carter kicked the Kiwis ahead with an early penalty, but it was the three turnovers in the opening ten minutes which had a nervy Australia rattled.
Foley levelled from a penalty from a scrum to give Australia a foothold, and though New Zealand continued to dominate possession and territory, the score sparked a frenetic passage of player with multiple changes in possession as both sides found their feet in the final. Australia continued to match the fellow two-time champions with their physicality, but Sekope Kepu twice escaped a yellow card for late and high challenges on Carter.
Matt Giteau was not so lucky however as after a big hit from Brodie Retallick left the Toulon dazed as he was replaced by Kurtley Beale, and subsequently failed a head injury assessment. The loss was compounded first as referee Nigel Owens missed a forward pass which led to a New Zealand penalty, and then as Conrad Smith slipped inside before McCaw's offload found the untracked Milner-Skudder, who went over.
No team had ever come from behind at half time to win a Rugby World Cup final, or staged a second half comeback from 13 points adrift of New Zealand and inside three minutes of the restart the daunting task facing Australia became close to insurmountable. Replacement Sonny Bill Williams attracted defenders and when his offload found Nonu, the centre wriggled away from three defenders, cut inside Beale and beat Drew Mitchell in a foot race to the line.
New life was breathed into the game when Ben Smith was yellow carded for a tip tackle on Mitchell, and Australia took advantage from the resulting line-out after the kick to the corner as Pocock finished the drive to the line. New Zealand looked set to restrict the damage until the final minute of Smith's absence saw Australia grab a second try as Mitchell latched onto Will Genia's box kick, which though it bounced awkwardly it allowed the winger to find Kuridrani who bundled his way through.
But upon being restored to 15 men, New Zealand retained their lead and built on it. First, Carter produced a drop goal from nothing to put his side a score ahead, before a penalty and a breakaway try from replacement Barrett saw off Australia.
New Zealand: 15. Ben Smith, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Joe Moody, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw, 8. Kieran Read.
Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Jannie du Plessis, 19. Lodewyk de Jager, 20. Willem Alberts, 21. Rudy Paige, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein.
Australia: 15. Israel Folau, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Matt Giteau, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Will Genia; 1. Scott Sio, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Kane Douglas, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Scott Fardy, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. David Pocock.
Replacements: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. James Slipper, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Dean Mumm, 20. Ben McCalman, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Kurtley Beale.