All Blacks 18 France 20
Now I love the All Blacks and I am most certainly not going to be one of those dour kiwis that has a good moan, starts cursing the coach and calling the captain a suitcase with no leadership skills. But once again, we have fallen. And what is worse, this time it is at the third to last hurdle, the earliest exit the All Blacks have ever made in a World Cup tournament.
As a New Zealander, I have to say this game was about as riveting as a car crash. You couldn't look away but it was painful. Like the Fiji / Wales match a week earlier, each team held ascendancy over the other in patches. Each team showed moments of flair and ambition, and each team had moments of sloppiness.
The French played with so much passion and as the game wore on the All Blacks slipped back into a panic mode and sadly, started dropping like flies. Hindsight is a great thing but unfortunately it is beginning to look like the controversial conditioning programme of Graham Henry's didn't in the end do much for Jerry Collins, Dan Carter, Keith Robinson and Byron Kelleher who looked like they were all limping as they came off the field.
With Kelleher subbed, the All Black backline lost its shape and the French stepped up their defence. There was nothing that McAlister, Rokocoko or Sivivatu could conjure up. We had nothing to offer and as the time ticked away on the clock, it became evident that once again, France would be celebrating another famous victory a la 1999.
With Michalek coming onto the paddock in the last ten, I knew deep down it was over for the ABs. An inspired 40m sprint by Michalek set up a Jauzion try and from here the French finally took the lead by the smallest of margins (two points). Through brave defence they managed to hold off the All Blacks who lost their team cohesion and started playing like a collective of individuals as opposed to the well oiled machine we have seen on so many occasions before.
Graham Henry was gracious in defeat and admitted that we didn't have the rub of the green. There were some controversial decisions (a sinbinning to McAlister; a forward pass in the build up to a crucial try to the French) but this is what the game is, and there is no point moaning about decisions that go against you when on another day, they will go for you.
I think Henry has been a great coach for this team and this team was indeed great - about two years ago. With the dip in form of Carter this year, the All Blacks have dipped too as a collective. However, I am proud of what they have achieved these last four years and the sun will rise again.
So - four more years! I'm a bit shocked, but also ok. It was a great game of rugby and we were beaten by a better team on the day. Well done Northern Hemisphere for turning the tables on us arrogant southerners. Well done France.