DAN Carter, who landed the decisive blow in New Zealand's World Cup triumph over Australia, said he had been relieved to make the Twickenham final
DAN Carter, who landed the decisive blow in New Zealand's World Cup triumph over Australia, said he had been relieved to make the Twickenham final.
"I'm so proud of the team," the 33-year-old fly-half said after the 34-17 win -- his swansong in international rugby.
"I'm pretty grateful to be where I am considering what happened four years ago," added Carter who was named man-of-the match for his 19 point haul.
Victory saw New Zealand become both the first side to win three World Cups and the first to lift the trophy at consecutive editions -- it was also the first they have won away from home soil.
All Blacks legend Carter missed the 2011 World Cup final win over France because of injury.
His dreams of bowing out from Test rugby a World Cup-winner this time were in danger as New Zealand, who had been cruising at 21-3 up early in the second half, saw Australia cut their lead to 21-17 by capitalising on the sin-binning of All Blacks full-back Ben Smith to score two converted tries.
"Playing with 14 men, I thought Australia played extremely well. They put us under pressure and scored a couple of tries and made a real game of it," said Carter.
However, urging on the weary-looking All Blacks, he stilled the Wallaby fightback with a superbly-taken 35-metre drop-goal -- only the eighth of his Test career -- 11 minutes from time to give New Zealand a seven-point lead at 24-17.
He then kicked a penalty to make the game safe before converting replacement back Beauden Barrett's late try.
Carter admitted afterwards he had struggled to avoid contemplating the prospect of victory in the days leading up to the final.
"I've been fighting those thoughts all week...I kept pulling myself back to the process and concentrating on the task in hand and I thought I did that well for the 80 minutes.
"Once that final whistle went, it was a great opportunity to release the emotions and I'm so proud."
Carter kicked three penalties and then landed a difficult touchline conversion of a try by wing Nehe Milner-Skudder on the stroke of half-time to ease the All Blacks into a 16-3 interval lead.
But his tactical kicking out of hand was also typically top-class as well.
Carter's drop-goal was the best of his scores on Saturday and arguably the most important.
It was his second in two matches after a drop-goal in the semi-final against South Africa helped the All Blacks come from 7-12 down at half-time to win 20-18.
"It was just like Richie (New Zealand captain Richie McCaw) was saying about guys just doing their job," said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster.
"When we needed him to step up and make some decisions and go out on a bit of a limb and have a crack at the drop-kick again, he did it."
There were a couple of worrying moments when Carter was tackled late and then high by Australia prop Sekope Kepu in two separate incidents just five first-half minutes apart.
But to the relief of New Zealand fans everywhere, he kept going.
Carter's tally of 1,598 Test points is 352 more than England great Jonny Wilkinson managed in his career.
The 708 points in 56 appearances by Japan's Ayumu Goromaru is now the highest total by an active international.
Foster added: "He (Carter) should be really satisfied with what he's done. He's left this team in a really good space, he's guided it well and done himself proud."
By opting to join Paris club Racing 92 in a lucrative move, Carter ended his international career as New Zealand have long refused to select overseas-based players for Test duty.
"It's such a special night," said Carter of his farewell to international rugby union.
"To be part of such a special group and achieve something that no-one else has done and finish my (Test) career on such a high, it's a dream come true."
Carter savours glorious World Cup farewell