sabato, novembre 21, 2015

The best possible end (Rugby World Cup)

Dan Carter was already a legend in his own rights. Already the top scorer in the game by far, already considered the best fly-half of of the modern era (and possibly of any era), good looking and whatever you want to say, he got it.

But entering this Rugby World Cup he was at the end of his career, coming back to a World Cup after having lost all but the first games in the previous one. He got injured during that World Cup while he was at the top of his career and missed the rest of the competition. Then ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2013. Already new players on the rise took his place in games during last years, so his position was not the one of the big star that no-one can doubt.

Then the competition begun, the matches went on and he was playing his game, good composure, on target with the kicking. Everything was going well, even if the All Blacks were not crushing every opponent as expected, but simply winning. And then a quarter final against France started, and New Zealand won big, really big. Than the semi final against South Africa and he played well during the whole match, and he topped the performance with a fine kicked drop goal that close the gap with South Africa and inspired the come back win.

And the final came. After 4 years, Carter would have played in the final he couldn't play 4 years before. A bit older, still great, but yet not the same: age and injuries slowing him down.

And I am sitting in my couch at home with my parents, big screen in front of me, enjoying the match and hoping for him to win that match he deserves. New Zealand started strong, and he plays great. Kicking well, orchestrating the offence and tough on defence. And Australia come back, increasing the pressure on defence, with hard tackles on Carter. At least 2, one just a little late, the second definitely high. He goes on. At half time they are up big, match seemingly in control. And just after half time another try for New Zealand and Carter converts it: 21 - 3. And I think this it's over, Carter, playing a really good game, is winning his World Cup.

Nope! Australia is a young team and plays really well. And Ben Smith tip-tackle a man in orange and is sin-binned. And in those 10 minutes the Wallabies storms back and suddenly the score is 21 - 17 and the momentum is on the Australia side. New Zealand seems still composed, but they are missing something to retake control. And Carter seems tired, he got tackled and it seems to me it took him ages to stand up again. Then he has a ball to kick into touch and he misses it. I am worried, it's around 60' minutes and I feel for the better of New Zealand's chances that he should be subbed.
Then something happens. The TV shows him rallying his team-mates, his run seems fine again and he keeps on tackling as if he is a flanker instead of the fly-half.
And... and out of nowhere he kicks out a drop goal that is simply amazing. Without preparation, from 35 meters, just like he is just passing by, an incredible drop goal. No preparation, he is not deeper than usual, the Australian line is not far away, he just kicks it and it goes in. New Zealand is up 7, a converted try, and Australia starts to feel the pressure and the time winding down. Carter kicked 7 drop goals in his whole career up to that point (and 1 in the semi-final 5 days before, byt the way). I am stunned.
The match goes on, Australia putting even more pressure, the All Blacks defending with order. Then there is a penalty just inside the All Blacks' half. I think they are gonna put it on touch. Carter looks around and decides to kick. 54 meters? He converts it! I am now on my feet. Final minutes, the Australians are attacking, but they are risking too much and they lose the ball: try for New Zealand. That's the end, Carter converts with his right foot. I didn't notice it at first. He is left footed (when kicking, he is actually right handed...). Carter wins his World Cup with an incredible match.

So, this was the perfect end. They should be making a movie about this man and his career and this last match. Because this is his last match with the All Blacks. 1, 5, 9, 8. Mark these numbers: 1598. It's 2 points short of 1600. But it's a sweet number. It's his mark for test points. I doubt anyone in the future will ever surpass this number. This is Dan Carter.
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