All Blacks' defence broke French
The All Blacks hailed their resolute defending after they held France scoreless for the first time ever in Christchurch on Saturday.
The All Blacks hailed their resolute defending after they held France scoreless for the first time ever in a resounding 30-0 victory on Saturday which sealed the three-Test series.
Although the All Blacks won on the back of a smart kicking game, and scored trademark running tries in what was their 500th international, a five-minute period of solid defence was seen as the turning point.
France trailed 0-10 at half-time, but they opened the second half with a bruising offensive on the All Blacks' line. Rival coaches Steve Hansen and Philippe Saint-Andre agreed that had France broken through, the game's outcome could have been different.
Instead, the All Blacks shut down breaks by Wesley Fofana and Yoann Huget, and held off a sustained period of French forward drives in a 17-phase attack which frustrated France into attempting a drop goal which was charged down.
The All Blacks recovered the loose ball and sparked a counter-attack that finished with a try under the posts to wing Ben Smith.
"The game was in the balance until that period when we did defend for a long time and then got the opportunity to strike and took it," said All Black coach Hansen.
Captain Kieran Read was delighted with the resolve of his team after last week's unconvincing 23-13 victory in Auckland, and said they were determined not to break.
"Defence really shows the character of a side and the willingness to put your body on the line for each other," said Read. "It's awesome to put in that effort and get rewards for it at the end so I'm really happy with it."
Saint-Andre said he knew it was "game over" when his team failed to score, and then immediately conceded a try at the other end.
"They beat us with their kicking game. We had an opportunity to come back when down 10-0. Five minutes in the 20 metres of New Zealand, we tried a drop goal, turnover, 80-metres and 17-0 and game over," the French coach said.
It was the first time the All Blacks have kept France scoreless in 53 Tests and it was achieved by abandoning their usual running game to repeatedly kick France into deep defensive positions.
There was an exceptionally high 41 line-outs in the game in which the All Blacks also benefited by stealing six France throws while losing only one of their own.
The All Blacks scored three tries, the first in the opening minutes after a Ma'a Nonu kick pinned France in the corner, Sam Whitelock stole the throw-in and a delicate Nonu chip kick put Julian Savea over.
"That try gave the All Blacks confidence to continue kicking," Saint-Andre said. "That's how they were clever in the first half. They would just kick for position, wait for our mistake, steal our ball in the line-out.
"When you play against New Zealand and you don't have urgency when you are on attack and to react very quickly on defence, you are punished like we were."
Smith's score, followed by a mesmerising second counter-attack from their own line which gave Beauden Barrett his first Test try, took the world champions to 378 wins in 500 internationals, one of the best records in any sport.
The final Test against France is in New Plymouth next weekend.