NZ must work on running & kicking
All Black coach Steve Hansen said the world champions still had a way to go to pull off their much-touted new game plan.
All Black coach Steve Hansen said the world champions still had a way to go to pull off their much-touted new game plan of varied running and kicking, after they beat a physical and fired up France 24-9 on Saturday.
The All Blacks completed a clean sweep in the three-Test series, but Hansen said the team was let down by poor ball maintenance.
France, who finished last in the Six Nations championship, lost the first two Tests against New Zealand before making eight changes for the third, and were not expected to win.
But they came out hungry to turn around a dismal year and prove the critics wrong and Hansen praised their ability to force the All Blacks into multiple errors to stay in with a chance of a win for three-quarters of the match.
In the end it was a try and a penalty in the closing minutes, when France ran out of steam, that settled the outcome.
"We don't want any mistakes but the opposition have got something to do with it too. They played their best match," Hansen said.
"They turned up and they had a reasonably smart game plan and they implemented it well and put us under pressure."
The All Blacks went into the Test with memories of the home series last year when they just scraped home against Ireland in the second Test before thrashing them 60-nil in the third.
But after beating France 23-13 in the first Test, then winning 30-0 in the second, they were unable to produce further improvements in the third.
"We probably didn't get them in the fashion you'd like to get them with a big flash scoreboard saying that we won the game and won it easy," Hansen said.
"But what we got was a genuine contest and it was a battle of wills and we saw ourselves get through that.
"The pleasing part of our game was the last 20 minutes where we started to really come forward and dominate with our defence and start to get some territory. The poorest part of that game was our ball maintenance."
France led twice in the game and it was late tries in both halves to the All Blacks - by Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett - plus four penalties and a conversion to Dan Carter that made the difference.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read felt his side was guilty of taking too long to match the muscle of a French unit that had the better of most forward exchanges.
"We didn't match them early on which gave them just a little confidence in that area and it made for a tough night for us," he said.
France, who led 3-0 from an early Florian Fritz drop goal, and regained the lead 9-8 soon after half-time with the second of Jean-Marc Doussain's penalties, felt they paid the price for not playing the full 80 minutes.
"To fight and carry on and have very good periods is very important but when we switched off against New Zealand at the end of the first half and at the end of the game we conceded a lot of points," said coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
"In the first Test we went close but the scrum was very poor, in the second Test it was our lineout, today it was our discipline. So each time we have something wrong."