It was another tough outing for the team, but it had no answer to France, which belied its No 4 world ranking with an outstanding allround display, anchored by a clinical lineout drive and a judicious kicking game.
This was France’s third consecutive win over the Black Ferns, and its most comprehensive yet, at six tries to one, while this was the first time the tourists had dropped three on the bounce since late 2012 in England.
The most notable aspect of the French performance was the quality of the defence, invariably getting a shoulder on in contact and allowing the Black Ferns no leeway to launch any sort of meaningful attack. Portia Woodman and Stacey Fluhler again hardly saw any ball in space.
But while France was perhaps not as clinical as England on attack, there was plenty of flair and skill in its rugby, and the home team was coming off a solid win over South Africa. In addition, the French had the luxury of bringing class players of the ilk of Safi N’Diaye and Jessy Tremouliere off the pine while lock Audrey Forlani was running out for her 50th international.
The Black Ferns started with more intent at the breakdown, and Kendra Cocksedge opened the scoring with a penalty goal after seven minutes.
But then we saw the first of four French tries that had their genesis in the lineout drive, wing Cyrielle Banet crossing for the first of her double after a maul and two crisp passes on the blindside. Simple rugby.
A sweeping movement not five minutes later led to Banet crossing again from an exquisite kick-pass.
The Black Ferns were under the pump, not helped by not being able to command their own lineout ball, an issue from the first England Test. The French back three of Emilie Boulard, Banet and replacement Chloe Jacquet proved hard to contain. The latter’s try on the stroke of halftime was simple in its execution.
Boulard scored the first try of the second spell, after some canny work by halfback Pauline Bourdon. Matters were not helped for the Black Ferns when reserve prop Amy Rule was yellow carded for attacking a lineout maul too early. That saw first five Ruahei Demant having to pack on the side of the scrum.
Two more lineout-driven French tries blew the score out to 38-6 before some solid work off the bench by lock Eloise Blackwell, who drove over for a try in close, and loose forward Kennedy Simon, who put on some bruising hits.
The pick of the Black Ferns was probably 20-year-old lock Maia Roos, who powered through her 80-minute shift, despite not having a stable platform.
But in all, there were too many errors, forced and unforced, from New Zealand.
France is firming as one of the favourites for the 2022 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
The Black Ferns won’t be thinking that far ahead. Their eyes will be on redemption, how to combat that lineout drive and unleash their attacking game, next weekend in Castres. But at this rate there will be some rocks under the beach towel this summer.
France 38 (Cyrielle Banet 2, Chloe Jacquet, Emilie Boulard, Agathe Sochat, Laure Sansus tries; Caroline Drouin 4 con) Black Ferns 13 (Eloise Blackwell try; Patricia Maliepo con; Kendra Cocksedge 2 pen) HT: 19-6 France