Rugby World Cup: All Blacks fall at final hurdle as South Africa claim record fourth title

The All Blacks have fallen at the final hurdle, as South Africa claimed a record fourth Rugby World Cup with a 12-11 victory at Paris' Stade de France. 

Twenty-eight years on from South Africa defeating New Zealand in the 1995 tournament decider, history has repeated, as the Springboks became only the second team to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup. 

New Zealand were their own worst enemies, as Sam Cane became the first All Blacks captain shown a red card, with a shoulder to the head of Jesse Kriel late in the first half. 

With a numerical advantage, South Africa never relented - never surrendering a lead earned solely through the boot of Handre Pollard.

Defeat sends a core of senior players, including Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Richie Mo'unga - as well as coach Ian Foster - out on a sour note. 

In a disastrous start to the final for South Africa, Bongi Mbonambi - the squad's only specialist hooker - stayed down hurt after an early tackle and limped from the field in the opening minutes. 

The All Blacks were hit just as quickly, when Shannon Frizell was shown a yellow card for the dangerous cleanout that saw the end of Mbonambi's night. 

Sam Cane was shown a red card.
Sam Cane was shown a red card. Photo credit: Getty Images

With their rivals down to 14, South Africa opened the scoring through Pollard, whose penalty gave them a 3-0 lead. 

Relentless pressure, emphasised through kicks into the 22 and a strong set-piece, saw the All Blacks largely on the backfoot for most of the opening exchanges. 

A clever Damian Willemse kick on the right flank left Beauden Barrett exposed, forced to clear into touch, and from the resulting lineout and driving maul, the Springboks earned another penalty, which Pollard converted to double South Africa's lead.  

Down 0-6, but back at 15 with Frizell's return, the All Blacks spurned their biggest chance, as the bounce of the ball favoured Willemse over Ardie Savea, after a kick into the in-goal from Jordie Barrett playing under advantage. 

From the resulting penalty, Richie Mo'unga's boot finally saw his side on the scoreboard with his first kick of the night. 

The All Blacks' discipline continued to cost them at the other end, as Pollard's third penalty - this one from just inside halfway - restored the Springboks' six-point buffer. 

Two missed lineout opportunities inside South Africa's half - both from errant Codie Taylor throws - saw the All Blacks continue to struggle to create chances, before Cane was shown yellow for a shoulder to the head of Kriel. 

Down to 14 for the second time in the half and without their captain, New Zealand conceded another penalty inside their 22, with Pollard stepping up again, as South Africa turned down the chance to twist the knife.  

To complete the All Blacks' first-half woes, Cane's yellow was upgraded to red, as he became the 11th New Zealander sent off in a test match. 

Siya Kolisi against the All Blacks.
Siya Kolisi against the All Blacks. Photo credit: Getty Images

Another Mo'unga penalty closed the gap back to six points and within a converted try, but down 12-6 at the break, the men in black had it all to do. 

Unchanged after halftime, South Africa went close through Kurt-Lee Arendse, who's dive for the corner was thwarted by a boot in touch. 

With supremacy within their grasp, the Springboks lost captain Siya Kolisi for a high shot on Savea, which remained a yellow card, after a review. 

The All Blacks looked to have taken advantage of Kolisi's absence, as Mo'unga put Aaron Smith away to score on the left in his final test, but the try was disallowed for a knockon from Savea in the build-up.  

Just inside the hour, they wouldn't be denied a second time, as Mark Telea sent Beauden Barrett in to score in the left corner and the Springboks conceded their first try in a World Cup final on the fourth attempt. 

However, Mo'unga failed to convert and the gap remained 12-11 in South Africa's favour. 

Will Jordan exited the game in the dying minutes, denying him the chance to claim a new record for the most tries at a men's World Cup. Instead, the winger now shares the record with Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea and Bryan Habana.  

With time ticking away, the All Blacks were thrown their last lifeline. A deliberate knockon from Cheslin Kolbe resulted in a yellow card and left Jordie Barrett with the chance to put the All Blacks in front for the first time. 

From just inside the South African half, the youngest Barrett brother couldn't land the decisive kick, but still left the All Blacks with just over six minutes against 14 men. 

South Africa showed all the experience of world champions and suffocated Foster's men to remain stuck in their own 22 for the final moments. When Savea knocked on in the 80th minute, the All Blacks had one last scrum to salvage something. 

That never came, as South Africa held on to deservedly become the first side to win the Rugby World Cup four times.  

South Africa 12 (Pollard 4 penalties) All Blacks 11 (B.Barrett try; Mo'unga 2 penalties)