(CNN) -- Hosts New Zealand edged out France 8-7 in a nailbiting finish to the Rugby World Cup final in Auckland Sunday to win the William Webb Ellis trophy for the second time.
It was a repeat of their success in the inaugural competition on their home soil in 1987, but it was far from the easy victory that many had predicted.
Watched by a capacity 61,000 in the Eden Park Stadium, and with the hopes of a rugby-mad nation on their shoulders, the All Blacks led 5-0 at halftime thanks to a try from prop Tony Woodcock.
Scrum-half Piri Weepu, missed the conversion and two other penalty kicks that would have given them a more comfortable advantage.
Stephen Donald, who replaced the injured Aaron Cruden at fly-half, put the home side 8-0 ahead when he slotted home an early second half penalty.
But back came France as a sustained attack led to a try for captain Thierry Dusautoir, converted by Francois Trinh-Duc, who was on as a replacement for the injured Morgan Parra.
Trinh-Duc had an excellent chance with 15 minutes left to kick a penalty which would have put Les Bleus ahead but his effort went wide.
France, given little chance after losing by 20 points to the All Blacks in the pool phase, were pressing at the end but desperate home defense kept New Zealand ahead.
At the final whistle the All Blacks players celebrated with a mixture of triumph and sheer relief they had finally laid to rest a 24-year litany of failure in Rugby's showpiece international competition.
There were also wild scenes of celebration among the estimated 150,000 people who had gathered to watch the final on giant screens in Auckland.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry admitted the closing minutes had been tense before his side closed out a long-awaited victory.
"I'm just delighted for the boys. We've been the top team in the world for a long time, so it's been a long time coming," he told the official Rugby World Cup website.
Captain Richie McCaw echoed Henry's sentiments after his side hung on for their slender win.
"We had to dig deeper than ever before and it's hard to get it to sink in, but I am so proud of every single one of them," said McCaw, who was one of four All Blacks who had played in the quarterfinal defeat to France in the 2007 World Cup.
Dusautoir, whose team had been subjected to such criticism as they scraped into the final, believed their display had been the perfect riposte.
"We showed that France deserved their spot in the final," he said.