Congratulations to South Africa, the 2023 Rugby World Cup winners.
The Boks have their hands on the glittering gold trophy for the second time running after beating old foes New Zealand 12-11 in rain-soaked Paris on Saturday night.
It might not have been the most sparkling match between two powerhouses of the sport, and the red card for All Blacks captain Sam Cane in the first half didn’t help New Zealand’s cause.
Having dramatically beaten England 16-15 in the semi-final, South Africa once more found a way to win, though.
Heartbroken Cane at full-time had the class to congratulate the victors, who now have four World Cups to their name – more than any other nation.
Long competition, with lots of drama
The competition kicked off on September 8 and lasted until late October.
Brilliant hosts France were beaten in the last eight by South Africa 29-28, as the Boks once more got over the line by the finest of margins.
I’ve caught much of the action and Scotland finished third – as most expected – in Pool B behind holders South Africa and world number one side Ireland.
The painful 36-14 defeat in the winner-takes-all clash with Ireland gave head coach Gregor Townsend plenty to ponder going forward. Following the Irish lead seems to be the main lesson.
England (also, as expected) got out of their group, containing Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile.
Their high point at that stage was George Ford kicking impressively as they beat Argentina 27-10, not fazed by Tom Curry’s early red card.
Their 71-0 rout of Chile showed attacking flair, but the mood didn’t seem to be one of widespread confidence.
England eased into the semi-finals
In the quarter-finals, England’s 30-24 victory over Fiji failed to raise hopes that they were a side capable of repeating the feat of winning the World Cup, as they did 20 years ago in Australia.
However, once in the last four, they were brilliant. Once in front against South Africa, they held the advantage until, somehow, their never-say-die opponents snatched the 16-15 win in dramatic fashion.
When watching that pulsating match, it really looked like England were clicking at the ideal time, but Handre Pollard’s late penalty nudged South Africa into the final against an All Blacks team who had thumped Argentina 44-6 the day before.
You felt for the English players who had given everything, but for me that should have been that.
They had given their all and – just – fallen short.
And it had completely gone out of my mind amid the drama that England had one more match to play.
One more match for semi-final losers
The beaten semi-finalists were not flying home just yet. Somehow they had to regroup and find the energy and desire to play one more 8o minutes.
It never appealed to me, although from some of the punditry on the day of the game, there were arguments that, for Argentina especially, to earn a bronze medal is a prize worth aiming for.
That said, England did have enough about them to raise themselves one more time and, on Friday night in the Stade de France, they beat the Pumas 26-23.
Of course it wasn’t where either team wanted to be – they wanted to be in Saturday’s final. But the runners-up last time took home the bronze on this occasion.
Football’s World Cup also has a match to decide the third-best team in the tournament, with Croatia winning it in 2002 in Qatar by beating Morocco. I had to Google that – and it was only last December.
I know I’m not the only one to think these matches no-one wants to play in should be ditched.
However, perhaps there is still enough support for them to continue?