All Blacks see off plucky French
MATCH REPORT: World player of the year Beauden Barrett helped stretch New Zealand's winning streak over France to 10 games with a hard-fought but ultimately comfortable 24-19 victory on Saturday
But having avenged that defeat with a 21-9 win in Dublin, it was back to business at a packed Stade de France.
The last time these two teams met, it was embarrassing, France going down 13-62 in the quarterfinals of last year's World Cup.
But the visitors were made to work for victory this time, Barrett scoring an intercept try and converting that and two other tries by Israel Dagg and Charlie Faumuina, as well as booting one penalty.
France's points came from a Louis Picamoles try, converted by Baptiste Serin, whose two penalties matched those of Maxime Machenaud.
France dominated the opening exchanges, Lopez spurning a sixth-minute shot at the posts for an attacking line-out after a great Virimi Vakatawa break.
But it came to nothing as the All Blacks shut down their defence. And then, with their first chance of the game, Barrett cross-kicked to Julian Savea, who passed inside to Dagg for an outstanding try.
Kevin Gourdon again proved the link man as France came back up the field, Lopez bundled into touch by Waisake Naholo just five metres from the New Zealand tryline.
Barrett extended the visitors' lead with a penalty, cancelled out by Machenaud.
Vakatawa was freed up for another run down his left wing, the Fijian-born Sevens specialist steaming into the All Black 22m area before popping up an offload to Wesley Fofana, the centre, under pressure, unable to hold on for what was the home side's best try-scoring opportunity.
When Naholo was caught in possession with Charles Ollivon breathing down his neck, referee Wayne Barnes had no option but to award a penalty, Machenaud making no mistake with his second effort to leave it finely poised at 10-6 at half-time.
France opened the second period on the front foot, Gourdan firing his side deep into New Zealand territory.
But one hit-up too many and a decision to play the blindside against a charging All Black defence saw Barrett intercept Lopez's pass and sprint 90 metres for a try he also converted.
Replacement scrumhalf Serin booted his first penalty as France, led by New Zealand-born prop Uini Atonio and Sebastien Vahaamahina, continued to threaten with ball in hand.
But it was another tighthead who was next on the scoreboard, Faumuina driving over after Barrett opted against a penalty and took the touch to attack through the line-out.
France skipper Guilhem Guirado then fell centimetres short of the line, but the home side finally scored a try after Serin broke and produced a delightful back-of-the-hand offload for Picamoles, the No.8 crashing over.
With 10 minutes to play, New Zealand again turned down a kickable penalty, opting for a scrum in the French 22. But that came to nothing, France taking no such option when they had a chance, Serin slotting his second penalty to bring the home side within five points with three minutes to play.
The All Blacks did not panic, however, and saw out time until the final whistle to round off a sterling year for the world's best team.
Man of the match: Beauden Barrett was fantastic for the All Blacks and deserves the award, but we could not ignore the impact replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Serin had on the game when he came on. He certainly sparked the French into life in the second half with some outstanding play.
Moment of the match: Beauden Barrett's intercept try early in the second half certainly put the All Blacks in the driving seat.
Villain of the match: No one.
Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2
Tries: Dagg, Barrett, Faumuina
Cons: Barrett 3
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyrille Baille, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Gael Fickou.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
AFP & @rugby365com