29 October 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


Ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and England on Saturday, we take you on a trip down memory lane as we revisit all eight past World Cup finals.

1987: New Zealand 29-9 France

New Zealand dominated this game in Auckland from the get-go, but they had to rely on attrition to wear down Les Bleus in the opening minutes.

For all the All Blacks’ early dominance, they went into half-time just 9-0 up. The old points system meant that this was equivalent to a Michael Jones try and a Grant Fox conversion and a drop goal.

The second half saw New Zealand really come to life. Although France started well with a Didier Camberabero penalty, the All Blacks soon took control.

After the boot of Fox took the score to 15-3, a David Kirk try 23 minutes into the second half all but put the result beyond doubt. It was Kirk’s break which led to yet another try, with John Kirwan putting the cherry on the cake.

Although France bagged a late consolation try through Pierre Berbizier, it was too little, too late.

1991: Australia 12-6 England

This cagey Twickenham contest saw the Wallabies come out on top to make it two World Cup wins out of two for the Southern Hemisphere.

Following Australia winger David Campese’s public criticism of England’s forward-centred style of play, they switched to a more open brand of running rugby. The decision was likely intended to unsettle the Wallabies, but it ultimately proved costly.

England put pressure on Australia at the start of the game, but the Wallabies were rock solid and ruthlessly effective.

Viliami Ofahengaue was crucial in defence and also created Australia’s first try through a break from a lineout. Tony Daly finished and a penalty and conversion from Michael Lynagh sent Australia into the break 9-0 up.

England stuck to their guns in the second half rather than reverting back to a tried and tested gameplan. Jonathan Webb bagged two late penalties with one from Lynagh sandwiched in between.

The hosts pushed for a late try, but their efforts were not rewarded. Star Wallaby Campese may not have got on the scoresheet, but he had his bright moments on attack and defence. In addition, he was the centre of controversy, as some will tell you that his deliberate knock-down which led to an England penalty should have been a penalty try.

1995: South Africa 15-12 New Zealand (AET)

Another tightly-fought, low-scoring World Cup final went all the way to extra time. Ultimately, the hosts triumphed at Ellis Park, winning the Webb Ellis Cup at the first attempt.

New Zealand started well, with the boot of Andrew Mehrtens putting them 6-3 to the good. However, South Africa came to life in the closing stages of the first half. The Bok forwards were immense and South Africa nearly drove their way over for a try, but ultimately had to settle for a penalty kick.

A Joel Stransky drop goal put the Springboks ahead at half-time, but Mehrtens responded in kind after the break. Both teams had their chances to seal victory, but the game went to extra time.

If there was no further score here, New Zealand would have won the World Cup due to their superior disciplinary record compared to South Africa’s. To make matters worse for the Boks, Mehrtens slotted over an extra-time penalty to make it 12-9.

Stransky responded with a penalty of his own before slotting over the match-winning drop goal from thirty metres out. A landmark moment for the newly-fledged democracy followed as Francois Pienaar shook hands with Nelson Mandela before lifting the World Cup trophy.


1999: Australia 35-12 France

Yet again, France made it all the way to the World Cup final only to be comprehensively beaten. The Wallabies turned on the gas in the second half to secure a comfortable win in Cardiff.

Les Bleus got the game off to a fine start, putting pressure on the Wallabies. However, they were unable to convert that into tries. In the end, France were let down by their own indiscipline.

Australia had just knocked defending champions South Africa out in a semi-final with no tries right through to the end of extra time. The final, too, started out as a goal-kicking contest. The Wallabies led 12-6 at half-time with all points having come through penalties.

Australia and France exchanged kicks off the tee until the scores were at 21-12. Then, the brilliance of George Gregan played a huge role in getting Australia over the line.

His break led to the first try, scored by Ben Tune. Then, the scrum-half fed Owen Finegan with a fine inside pass and he went all the way to wrap up the contest.

2003: Australia 17-20 England (AET)

Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal right at the end of extra time denied Australia a third title in four tournaments and gave the Northern Hemisphere a first World Cup. Ironically, the Wallabies’ coach on that day in Sydney was none other than current England boss Eddie Jones.

The Wallabies started on the front foot with Lote Tuqiri scoring a try in their left corner. However, England slowly began to take control thereafter. After three Wilkinson penalties put Clive Woodward’s men in the driving seat, Jason Robinson’s try made it 14-5 at half-time to the visitors.

The Wallabies clawed their way back in the second half with three Elton Flatley penalties taking the game to extra time. The last of those had come right at the end of the 80 minutes.

Another Wilkinson penalty put England in front before Flatley levelled from the tee again. The game appeared destined for sudden death, but with seconds remaining on the clock, Wilkinson’s drop goal from just outside the 22 wrote his name in Rugby World Cup history.

2007: England 6-15 South Africa

The 2019 final will be a rematch of this classic contest from 12 years back, which saw Jake White’s Springboks triumph at the Stade de France. Eddie Jones, then working as a technical advisor to White, gained his revenge on England.

South Africa had already thrashed them 36-0 in the pool stages, but the reigning champions had fought back to book their place in the final. However, the Boks were simply too strong for them.

Percy Montgomery and Jonny Wilkinson exchanged kicks early on, but the Springbok fullback had the better of the contest as South Africa went into half-time 9-3 up.

The pair exchanged penalty kicks again after the break before a 49-metre effort from a young Frans Steyn extended the Springboks’ lead to nine points.

South Africa had dominated the game and were duly rewarded as Thabo Mbeki got to celebrate with the side just as Nelson Mandela had 12 years earlier.


2011: France 7-8 New Zealand

It used to be said that the All Blacks were the best team in the world except in every fourth year. At long last, Graham Henry’s men broke the curse in Auckland, the scene of their only previous triumph.

A clever lineout move saw Tony Woodcock go over within a quarter of an hour for the first try of the game. However, New Zealand were made to sweat from then on.

The All Blacks had to wait until the second half to extend their lead to 8-0 through Stephen Donald. Almost immediately afterwards, Thierry Dusautoir scored right next to the posts. The conversion from François Trinh-Duc narrowed the gap to a single point.

Ultimately, New Zealand clung on and France fell at the final hurdle for the third time in three finals. Referee Craig Joubert was heavily criticised for allegedly allowing the All Blacks to get away with infringements, but when all was said and done, nothing could take their triumph away and the era of New Zealand dominance had well and truly begun.

2015: New Zealand 34-17 Australia

New Zealand became the first team to retain the Rugby World Cup in 2015, dominating the Wallabies from the offset — although there were a few nervy moments.

Three Dan Carter penalties took the score to 9-3 before Nehe Milner-Skudder scored the first try of the game on the stroke of half-time.

Ma’a Nonu extended New Zealand’s lead after the break, profiting from a Sonny Bill Williams offload and embarking on a marauding run through the heart of the defence to score.

A yellow card to Ben Smith changed the complexion of the game as David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani bagged tries, each converted by Bernard Foley.

At 21-17, New Zealand’s win was in doubt all of a sudden, but a drop goal and penalty from Carter gave them some breathing space before Beauden Barrett scored the try that clinched the World Cup.


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