France claim Dave Gallaher Trophy in Paris

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Directed superbly for all but the last three minutes by halfback Antoine Dupont, France were unrelenting. There were signs of All Blacks revivals, especially when they went through the middle of rucks with their drives, but the French defence remained firm in the pivotal moments.

 

If an advertisement was needed for signs of a French revival ahead of the Rugby World Cup they will host in 2023 then this was it.

 

Harsh realities resulting from failing to secure ball were rammed home by the pepped up French who feasted on All Blacks hesitancy and inaccuracy, especially in the first half, in a ruthless demonstration of their emerging class.

 

Down 6-24 at halftime, the All Blacks were knocked backwards by an unrelenting combination of hard knocks and running and passing acumen.

 

The way they were picked apart is rare in modern All Blacks' history. Yet, they had a 50-50 share of possession in the first half but with only 45 percent in territory. That extended to 53 percent possession for the All Blacks in the game overall.

 

France opened the scoring when they gained an advantage at a breakdown and carried ball into New Zealand's 22m area forcing fullback Jordie Barrett to clear just out from the goal-line. From the lineout, France controlled the drive and hooker Peato Mauvaka scored off the maul.

Two penalty goals to Barrett got New Zealand back within a point but as Dupont worked the ball around left and right, it was wing Damian Penaud who ran back infield and set up the ruck which saw first five-eighths Romain Ntamack step past first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga through a gap on the line to score.

 

Mistakes were a severe handicap for the All Blacks with turnovers punished. Nepo Laulala dropped a pass and France pounced, a cross kick was knocked down by centre Gaël Fickou and play carried to the All Blacks line. Another penalty infringement provided the lineout chance and Mauvaka was the beneficiary with his second try.

 

Even with their best chance to score, just before halftime from a round-the-front lineout move, hooker Dane Coles made ground but his pass in the tackle went to ground and lock Brodie Retallick wasn't able to control the ball, allowing the French to kick the ball out from the scrum to go to the break.

 

In the second half, the All Blacks made the most of a 50-20 kick by wing Will Jordan. From the lineout, the All Blacks drove hard through the middle of the ruck in a series of drives and when second five-eighths Quinn Tupaea took the ball to the goal-line, halfback Aaron Smith flung a long pass across to Barrett who scored in the corner.

 

Four minutes later, the All Blacks stole the ball at a ruck just out from their 22m area and with space out wide Tupaea ran straight to give Rieko Ioane a chance to break and his speed was enough to run away for another try. It was the All Blacks 100th try in 2021 – the first side in rugby history to achieve the feat.

 

 

France scored another penalty goal to sent the gap to nine points, but in the 58th minute, another lineout penalty was turned to advantage when hard-driving from hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho set up the momentum that saw No8 Ardie Savea drive over the line to score.

 

However, after a New Zealand counter-attack with a kick to the in-goal, Ntamack ran the ball back and France went the length of the field, as fullback Melvyn Jaminet and Dupont carried play on, and they only missed a try when lock Cameron Woki held on too long. In the breakdown, Savea was sin-binned and Mauvaka was directed to kick for goal to extend the lead to five points.

 

Flanker Sam Cane pulled off a superb steal but in transferring the ball to space, replacement back David Havili's pass outside was intercepted by Penaud who scored.

 

Unable to escape France's clutches in the last 10 minutes, the home team sealed the contest with a penalty goal.

 

Scorers: France 40 (Peato Mauvaka 2, Romain Ntamack, Damian Penaud tries;  Melvyn Jaminet 4 con, 4 pen) New Zealand 25 (Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Ardie Savea tries; Barrett 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 24-6

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