This memorable match was characterized by intense action and some heated moments, including three yellow cards and a significant red card for Sam Cane. Beauden Barrett's lone try for New Zealand paled in comparison to Handre Pollard's four successful penalties. The ecstatic Springboks clinched their fourth Webb Ellis Cup, following their previous victories in 1995, 2007, and 2019.
The opening 40 minutes in Saint-Denis were marred by injuries and a landmark red card. South Africa was dealt an early blow when Bongi Mbonambi had to exit the game just three minutes in due to a dangerous tackle by Shannon Frizell, who was subsequently sent to the sin bin. Deon Fourie stepped in to replace the injured Mbonambi, who had recently faced allegations of a racist comment towards England's Tom Curry. Pollard then put the first points on the board with a penalty that hit the post.
Fortunately for New Zealand, Frizell was allowed back onto the field, but the 14-man squad conceded three more points through another Pollard penalty. Richie Mo'unga managed to score a kick in the 17th minute, putting New Zealand on the board, though Ardie Savea came agonizingly close to scoring a try just moments earlier.
Savea's frustrations continued as he gave away a third penalty to the Springboks in the 20th minute, which Pollard successfully converted. New Zealand captain Cane then made history for all the wrong reasons. He was penalized for a high challenge on Jesse Kriel, making contact with Kriel's face using his shoulder. Following a TMO review that found no mitigating circumstances, Cane received the first-ever red card in a Rugby World Cup final.
As Pollard added a fourth penalty, Cane watched expressionlessly from the sidelines. Nevertheless, New Zealand's 14 men came within inches of scoring a try in the 37th minute, but Kurt-Lee Arendse made a remarkable last-ditch tackle to halt Rieko Ioane's progress.
Ian Foster's team had the advantage of a penalty, and Mo'unga capitalized on it, reducing South Africa's lead to 12-6, mirroring the halftime score of the Springboks' 2019 final victory over England. The second half saw the Springboks return with a vengeance.
Arendse almost scored the first try of the final in the 45th minute, latching onto a well-placed grubber kick, but the ball slipped from his grasp just as he crossed the line. For a brief 10 minutes, the playing field was leveled as South Africa's captain, Siya Kolisi, was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Savea.
The All Blacks nearly capitalized on this opportunity as Aaron Smith dived over in the 54th minute after a brilliant dummy and run by Mo'unga, but the try was disallowed due to a Savea knock-on at the line-out. However, New Zealand maintained the pressure, and in the 58th minute, they worked the ball to Telea, who managed to flick it to Beauden Barrett as he made his way to the try line.
Barrett's try was awarded despite replays suggesting a forward pass from Telea. Nevertheless, South Africa held onto their lead as Mo'unga's conversion attempt went wide from a challenging angle.
Despite having a numerical advantage, South Africa appeared unsettled, and a deliberate knock-on by Cheslin Kolbe in the 73rd minute ensured that the match would conclude with 14 players on each side. However, Jordie Barrett couldn't find the mark with his long-range penalty, allowing the Springboks to retain their narrow lead.
A determined New Zealand team refused to surrender, but they couldn't conjure the magic moment they needed, ultimately ending the World Cup as runners-up for just the second time, the previous occasion being their loss to the Springboks in the 1995 final.