WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand rugby fans say they finally believe the All Blacks will win the World Cup after the defending champions' record-breaking quarter-final demolition of France.
The win avenged a disastrous 2007 loss to Les Bleus at the same Cardiff venue, supporters said, with the emphatic 62-13 scoreline providing an added twist of the knife.
"I was nervous because of the history but I think when the All Blacks front up like that they can beat anyone," Don Syme told AFP.
The Cardiff match kicked off at 8am Sunday New Zealand time and tensions were high among supporters streaming into The Five Stags sports bar in central Wellington.
The pub was only open because the government in rugby-mad New Zealand passed a special law extending licensing hours during the tournament, despite objections.
But there was more coffee than beer being sipped at the Five Stags, where the pre-match atmosphere was subdued.
"I'm actually nervous," Jackie Foster said ahead of the game. "We've been in an easy pool, so I think this will be our first real test."
The All Blacks' patchy early performances and the threat from the unpredictable French were common themes, with only Grant Collinge prepared to stick his neck out and predict a 30-point win.
The All Blacks ended up notching 62, the highest for a World Cup knockout match, and Collinge was confident they will go on to become the first team to claim back-to-back titles.
"I've never seen a quarter-final like that before," he said after the Wellington fans had shaken off their Sunday-morning cobwebs to shout themselves hoarse as the All Blacks ran in nine tries.
"Everyone's been talking about the game that we want to see the All Blacks play and I think that was it.
"You can't really improve on that and if we maintain it I think we'll win the World Cup."
Talkback radio host Daniel McHardy hailed a "flawless" performance, while television commentator Grant Nisbett seemed unable to believe what was unfolding.
"You can't do that? You can't put 60 on France in a quarter-final can you? Amazing stuff," he said, with former All Black Justin Marshall chipping in: "There's a bit of payback there."
Among the elation, there was also acknowledgement that New Zealand face a stiff challenge from South Africa in the semi-finals next week at Twickenham.
"We play South Africa every year and they're generally tight contests," Syme said, admitting that All Blacks fans were now in a much happier frame of mind after humiliating France.
"Absolutely," he said. "It should be a nice Sunday now."