After an early start, Kiwis celebrate a Rugby World Cup win
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Bleary-eyed New Zealanders launched into raucous celebration on Sunday after watching the All Blacks beat Australia 34-17 to win back-to-back Rugby World Cups, dubbing their defeated rivals ''Losstralia.''
The final at London's Twickenham stadium began at 5 a.m. New Zealand time and, while some Kiwis kept all-night vigils, most dragged themselves out of bed, fortified with coffee to see rugby history being made.
Bars and cafes in most cities were packed by All Blacks fans, and a few courageous Australians. But living room lights and flickering TV screens in towns and cities around New Zealand revealed where most Kiwis preferred to watch the game.
Social media came alive at the final whistle with expressions of relief and delight, and tributes to key players such as captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma'a Nonu.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key tweeted ''back-to-back Rugby World Cups. What an amazing game by the All Blacks. Absolute legends.''
His Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, responded ''congratualations All Blacks. Very worthy world champions. A great campaign to the final and thrilling fightback by the Wallabies.''
British Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who tweeted his congratulations to the All Blacks, describing the final as a ''brilliant contest by 2 outstanding teams.''
Trending hashtags included BlackToBlack, champions, congratulations, 3timechamps, EllisCup, AllBlackseverything, ihaven'tsleptyet and the less-obvious Halloween. Losstralia made its first appearance over a map of Australia, and was defined as ''(noun), a country that always loses to New Zealand.''
Celebrations heightened the recognition that the All Blacks had become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups, and the first to win the Webb Ellis Cup three times. But the win also came at a time when political relations between New Zealand and Australia are at a low ebb, embittered by a perception of the Australian government's unfair treatment of Kiwis living in Australia.
Recent legislation has deprived New Zealanders who have been long-term residents of Australia of benefits enjoyed by other taxpayers. At the same time, Australia has begun interning and deporting New Zealanders who have committed crimes in Australia, although many have lived in Australia for most of their lives.
Confidence was high among All Blacks' fans that their top-ranked team would make history. One punter placed a bet of $400,000 on New Zealand - the largest ever accepted by New Zealand's state betting agency - and received $540,000 as a reward for his confidence.
Anxiety felt by some fans began to abate when New Zealand took a 16-3 lead to halftime, but returned when Australia rallied during the second half to cut the All Blacks' lead to 21-17.
In Australia, some fans turned their anger on Welsh referee Nigel Owens, complaining he missed a forward pass in the leadup to Carter's third penalty, and failed to award a penalty for a high tackle by All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino on David Pocock.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist Paul Cully said fans who blamed Owens would be ''barking up the wrong tree, because the Wallabies lineout was the greater villain.''
''Every time the Wallabies' back row managed to get them out of trouble, Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau and their jumpers put them back in it,'' Cully said. ''The debates can end, and the discussion boards can close down. This All Blacks side confirmed themselves as a special team and the benchmark the rest of the world must chase.
''But how the Wallabies made them work for their place among the giants. In a compelling World Cup final, the Wallabies lost two men in the first half to cruel injuries and were on the canvas early in the second half before rousing themselves to frighten 4 million New Zealanders.''