There was a touch of French farce about the way the All Blacks ended 24 years of hurt to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Not for the first time since New Zealand claimed the first World Cup on home soil back in 1987, it looked like the Blacks were going to choke again and leave their fanatical fans frustrated by an unlikely defeat at the hands of the rank outsiders France.

A fairytale Rugby World Cup debut for fourth choice fly-half Stephen Donald

For Stephen Donald, previously the most unpopular fly-half in New Zealand, to come off the bench and kick the penalty that turned out to be the match winner was  the most unlikely scenario you could possibly imagine.

Fourth-choice Donald, who has at least three Facebook pages dedicated to condemning his performances as an All Black, was only on the pitch because the injury curse that previously ruled out Dan Carter and Colin Slade claimed Aaron Cruden at the end of the first half. Not only was he making his World Cup debut, he confidently took over the goalkicking duty from misfiring Piri Weepu and landed the 46th-minute penalty that turned out to be the winning points, following the first half try by Tony Woodcock.

France stormed back with a converted try from by their inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir that left the hosts desperately holding on by a single point at 8-7. But All Blacks weathered wave after wave of attacks to seal victory and spark scenes of wild jubilation at Eden Park.

When All Blacks’ captain Richie McCaw – the most popular man in New Zealand – told a live TV audience the encounter had left him “absolutely shagged” it was hard not to smile.