All Blacks whitewash France
All Blacks whitewash FranceSHARE
New Zealand scored a 3-0 series whitewash over France after beating Les Bleus 24-9 in a freezing New Plymouth on Saturday.
The margin may suggest another hammering for the French. It was far from it. The All Blacks had to work very hard for the triumph.
The French were certainly charged up for this Test and while there was nothing subtle about their approach, it made for a more even contest than the first two encounters between the sides.
Dan Carter and Remi Tales both displayed some exceptional out-of-hand kicking in the freezing conditions – Carter, drawing on all his experience, shading this mini contest.
And he was well-supported with some sublime little grubbers from Ma'a Nonu.
If there was a problem for the Kiwis it was the tendency of the All Black backs to play from too deep and drifting sideways.
It also did not come as much of a surprise when Wyatt Crockett was replaced straight after half-time, as he was a major penalty liability and cost his team dearly in the scrums in the first half.
The All Black defence deserves credit for keeping the French tryless in the last two encounters, particularly in this game when they hardly breached the advantage line.
The French looked up for the game right from the kick-off, but a dubious call by the referee robbed them of the early momentum.
After a period of phase play by the All Blacks near the French 22, which ended with Wyatt Crockett being penalised as he so often does at scrum time, the French went charging downfield and Florian Fritz put his team on the board with a drop-goal.
The French, with a combination of kicking and hard running, kept the All Blacks pinned near their 22. However, the men in black found a way to turn the ball over and drive the tourists back. That ended up with a penalty to the All Blacks at a line-out inside the French 22 and Dan Carter levelling the scores at 3-all.
At the end of the first quarter the other All Black prop, Owen Franks, was penalised at a scrum and scrumhalf Jean Marc Doussain aimed at the uprights. However, he was well wide with a very goalable kick.
A mistake by Remi Tales, who failed to find touch with a penalty, not only gifted the All Blacks possession, if resulted in a penalty at the tackle – with Carter hitting the upright.
On the half-hour Crockett was again penalised at scrum time, although Franks could easily have conceded one as well. However, Jean Marc Doussain was again well wide of the mark.
That came back to haunt them, as the Kiwis – who are often at their most dangerous in the 10 minutes just before and after the half-time break – got the first try four minutes from the break. It was awarded to Ben Smith, after several reviews by the TMO, but it was the work of the forwards in the build-up that must be credited for this five-pointer. Carter was wide with the conversion attempt – 8-3 to the All Blacks.
Wyatt Cricket was again penalised, this time at a for illegally sacking a maul, and finally Jean Marc Doussain got a kick over – but only after it bounced off the upright – 6-8.
Conrad Smith had a late chance of a try, but he failed to control the ball in the ingoal area and the All Blacks took that two-point lead into the half-time break.
Straight after the restart Sam Cane was penalised for a high tackle and Doussain put the French back in the lead with the penalty. However, Carter regained the lead minutes later, after the French were caught offside at a tackle – 11-9 after 50 minutes.
Carter missed a shot at goal in the 55th minute, after Benjamin Kayser was penalised at the breakdown, but slotted a sideline penalty in the 59th minute to stretch the lead to 14-9.
With nine minutes left on the clock referee Nigel Owens and George Ayoub felt French lock Yoann Maestri was reckless/dangerous at a ruck and sent him to the sin bin. Carter slotted the penalty for a 17-9 lead.
There was enough time for home-town hero Beauden Barrett to come on and score a try, after he followed up a perfectly-weighted Ben Smith kick. Carter added the conversion to make it an emphatic 24-9 win – a margin that probably flatters the Kiwis.
Man of the match: South African-born No.8 Antonie Claassen justified his inclusion, while Thierry Dusautoir had another great game. Does he ever have a bad one? Luke Romano was involved in many of the All Blacks' ball carries and very effective at that, while he also put his body on the line on defence. Ma'a Nonu continued to silence his critics, with the occasional break and sublime little grubbers that kept the French guessing, while Conrad Smith also produced another outstanding display. Ben Smith made the most of his chance to start for the All Blacks, while Dan Carter was once again the general that directed play. Our award goes to All Black captain Kieran Read, who may not have been flawless with his performance, but we can forgive him the occasional dropped pass. It may be his workrate that often gets the accolades, but it is his reading of the game – epitomised in a crucial try-saving tackle early in the game – that is his real value. He so often is involved in crucial plays.
Moment of the match: The locals will look to the Beauden Barrett try in the 80th minute, for the delight factor. However, the decisive moment, unfortunately, was a dubious call by the referee and his TMO – who saw fit to sin bin French lock Yoann Maestri in the 71st minute for his actions at a ruck. Even the TV replays were inconclusive, but Welshman Nigel Owens – who was guilty of a huge blunder early in the first half – saw fit to yellow card him any way.
Villain of the match: French lock Yoann Maestri may have been yellow carded for an offence at a ruck, but that was a questionable call et best. Our award goes to All Black prop Wyatt Crockett. It wasn't really cruddy, but Crockett again showed why Tony Woodcock's eventual departure will leave New Zealand with a huge hole at loosehead prop. Crockett, the most penalised prop in the world by some distance, was replaced straight after half-time after a string of penalties – most of them at scrum time.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Smith, Barrett
Pens: Carter 4
Pens: Doussain 2
Yellow card: Yoann Maestri (France, 71 – foul play, illegal charging in at a ruck)
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Marc Andreu, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yohann Huget, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Jean Marc Doussain, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Alain Rolland (Ireland)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)