All Blacks rout hapless French
All Blacks rout hapless FrenchSHARE
New Zealand took an unassailable 2-0 series lead when they routed a hapless French team 30-0 in Christchurch on Saturday.
The victory – every bit as commanding as the margin suggests – was made even sweeter as it came in their 500th Test.
And to rub salt into the already festering wounds of the floundering French, is that it was the first time ever that New Zealand have kept France scoreless.
It is not the biggest defeat though. In 2007 there was a 51-point margin (61-10) to the Kiwis, next best was the 54-7 (47 points) in 1999 and the 44 points (47-3) in 2006.
An astute kicking game laid the groundwork and the All Blacks powered home after an early try to Julian Savea and two crowd-pleasing scores in the second half from Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett.
New Zealand's 378th victory in 500 internationals, which makes them one of the most successful teams in all sports, follows last week's 23-13 win in Auckland and gives them a 2-0 lead with a game to spare.
The All Blacks led 10-0 at half-time and added 20 points in the second half while continuing to keep France scoreless.
The renowned flair of the French made them a threat when they had an opportunity to run with the ball, but their opportunities were few as they were continually forced into a defensive game by an All Blacks aerial bombardment.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had demanded an improvement on the stumbling first Test win in Auckland a week ago, and the team took notice.
Before a capacity crowd of 21,000 who braved chilly, wet conditions, they were a far more settled unit the second time around against their 2011 World Cup final opponents.
Kieran Read and Liam Messam lead an effective nullifying of the French strength at the breakdown, and the scrum held its own despite the addition of Nicolas Mas into the French front row.
But it was the kicking game, so wayward a week ago, that produced the result as France were kept pinned deep in their own half.
Their best opportunity to breach the All Blacks defence came early in the second half when a series of pick-and-goes, and half-breaks by Wesley Fofana and Yohann Huget, took them through 17 phases inside the All Blacks 22.
However, when the move eventually broke down, the All Blacks showed their game was not all about kicking and triggered a length-of-the-field counter-attack that ended with a try to Ben Smith under the posts.
But it was their kicking that engineered their first try, in the third minute of the game when they drilled France into a corner.
Sam Whitelock stole the defensive line-out from debutant Bernard le Roux and a delicately weighted grubber kick from centre Ma'a Nonu allowed Savea to scamper over for the try.
Despite a superior territory advantage the All Blacks had to wait 15 minutes, and at a rare moment when they were inside their own 22, to set up their next points.
A Frederic Michalak penalty attempt bounced off the upright into the arms of Kieran Read, playing his 50th Test, and the All Blacks captain swatted aside tacklers in a 50-metre run upfield.
When he was lowered, a Cruden kick took the All Blacks up to the line where the desperately defending French conceded a penalty which the flyhalf converted into three points.
For the rest of the half, the defending French, led by the hard-hitting Thierry Dusautoir, the "the Dark Destroyer", kept the All Blacks at bay.
The big French push at the start of the second half came unstuck when out of frustration at not being able to breach the All Blacks defence they reverted to a drop-goal attempt, only for Sam Cane to charge down Michalak's kick.
The All Blacks recovered the ball with Savea leading the break down-field and sending Ben Smith over for the try.
Cruden added two further penalties before the All Blacks' final try, another breakout effort from their own line started by Rene Ranger and finished under the posts by replacement Beauden Barrett after a delicious offload from Cruden.
Man of the match: Ma'a Nonu was not flawless, but the big centre set the tone with his early bursts and kept up the energy levels. There was some great running by Julian Savea, great play by Aaron Cruden, the usual all-out effort from Kieran Read and Sam Cane. However, our award goes to All Black fullback Israel Dagg. He was a rock at the back and those huge downfield kicks just kept driving the French back deep into their own territory. He played the conditions perfectly and made some crucial tackles.
Moment of the match: Julian Savea 's try in the fourth minute set the tone for New Zealand's dominant performance and the third try was classic All Blacks. However, the deal-breaker was Ben Smith's try in the 50th minute. New Zealand held off numerous French raids near their line and then when a Frederic Michalak drop-goal attempt was charged down the Kiwis pounced in the most emphatic and brutal fashion to kill of the last bit of French resistance.
Villain of the match: Nothing too nasty, despite the brutal nature of some of the hits. However, Frederic Michalak was pathetically poor in his decision-making and execution of plays. Those drop-goal attempts were not just pitiful, they played right into the hands of the All Blacks.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Savea, B Smith, Barrett
Cons: Cruden 3
Pens: Cruden 3
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain) 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Rene Ranger.
France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Bernard Le Roux, 7 Louis Picamoles, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Brice Dulin, 22 Remi Tales, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), TBC (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
AFP & rugby365