All Blacks crush France

By Chris Barclay

The All Blacks beat France 42-11 at Eden Park tonight, outscoring the French five tries to one.

Injuries to key players Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw proved the only real anxieties for a crowd of 41,500, although neither knock initially appeared serious.

Carter sustained an injury to his left ankle in just the ninth minute but still played a crucial role in New Zealand's two first-half tries while McCaw limped off at halftime with a bruised hip.

The duo watched the second half from the bench as the All Blacks continued their relentless domination of a touring side featuring six new caps in their starting 15.

A combative, makeshift France, missing 30 elite players, hung in until the 30th minute when Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Isaia Toeava combined to put second five-eighth Aaron Mauger over by the goalposts for the first of his two tries.

Sitiveni Sivivatu, who also scored a brace, inflated the margin five minutes later after Australian television match official George Ayoub took an eternity to judge the wing exerted enough downward pressure after a goal line collision with Thomas Castaignede following a precise Carter chip kick.

Carter was clearly hampered after receiving a knock to his kicking leg and handed over the goalkicking responsibilities to Piri Weepu, who added a penalty and conversion before Nick Evans made a smooth transition into the playmaker role for the second half.

Ahead 20-3 at the break, the All Blacks were never in danger of surrendering the initiative and added three more tries on the back of a strong performance from their pack, particularly at scrum time.

Sivivatu was denied when he was penalised for a double movement in the 48th minute and three minutes later centre Toeava fluffed a certain try when he failed to ground a neat grubber from Evans.

However, there was no respite for the French who were pulverised off the resulting defensive scrum feed before Evans flicked the ball to the Sivivatu on the flank.

France, who lost first five-eighth Benjamin Boyet to the sinbin for a professional foul in the 51st minute, scored a consolation try to debutant wing Jean-Francois Coux while a man down to narrow the margin to 11-28.

Mauger's completion of a sweeping backline move on the hour and a 71st-minute try to replacement loose forward Rodney So'oialo underlined the All Blacks' superiority.

New Zealand monopolised possession and territory so emphatically in the first half the only cause for French satisfaction came via wild-haired No 8 Sebastien Chabal's shuddering -- and legal -- hit on opposite Chris Masoe in the 23rd minute.

The impact, which saw Masoe's head thud into the turf, left the fill-in No 8 groggy although he was able to continue and finished the match on the openside flank.

France also ended the match with injury concerns, with lock and captain Pascal Pape the major concern after he was assisted from the field after falling hard near halfway late in the game.

With McCaw's retreat Reuben Thorne ended up calling the shots for the All Blacks, his first captaincy role for New Zealand since the victory over France at the 2003 World Cup in Sydney.

- NZPA

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