Awesome All Blacks thump France

By Gregor Paul in Christchurch

Julian Savea of the All Blacks escapes the tackle of Yoann Maestri of France during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France. Photo / Getty Images.
Julian Savea of the All Blacks escapes the tackle of Yoann Maestri of France during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand 30
France 0

Kick and chase hasn't previously been the All Blacks' cup of tea, but last night they gave it a go and found they were rather good at it.

They discovered that they don't have to win a test in the first 10 minutes or run a country mile and more in the process. Who would have thought it, but some old ideas still have value - ideas such as building pressure through territory, set-piece excellence and a low error rate.

Seeing the All Blacks kick so much wasn't what the French - what anyone for that matter - expected from the All Blacks, but how refreshing to be surprised.

Crammed with runners, exuberant sorts who tend to arrive at these occasions all pent up desperate to be let off the leash, it stretched the patience and discipline of all to initially forego counter attacking in favour of repeatedly hoofing the ball behind the French.

The Dalai Lama has been in New Zealand this week - maybe he taught them a thing or two about how to curb those natural instincts, whoever had been in their ear, certainly got the message through.

Aaron Smith had obviously listened. He mixed his game up to such effect that he was in danger of being accused of showing off. He was perhaps taken off with 20 minutes remaining before the rest of the world was alerted to just how good he is. We knew he could pass. Now it would seem he can kick just as well.

Aaron Cruden was equally strong with his boot. There was no mucking about, no thinking it through and wondering: when he got the ball deep in his own territory, he smacked it long.

The All Blacks simply refused to play rugby in their own half until they had the game under control. They weren't going to give the French a sniff of anything that could be construed as an opportunity.

It was a game-plan borne from the suspicion the weather would be mince and the near certainty the French wouldn't be able to exude the same self-control and they would find it impossible not to accept the challenge of running from deep.

The second part was bang on. France did indeed take the bait and the harder they bit, the more pressure the All Blacks were able to apply.

It was like watching a child sit on a balloon - the pressure was going to lead to the inevitable. France resisted for 50 minutes before they went pop - the explosion carrying an element of the spectacular.

The French had pounded the All Black line for a near five minutes. They clobbered about, sent every bit of weaponry to the frontline, but this black swarm - like a dust cloud advancing across the plain - met them head on. It was defence as every coach dreams it should be: technically and structurally it was perfect. It was the passion and emotion that made it special, though. All Black bodies flew in, All Black bodies popped up: bodies flew back in, bodies popped back up.

France were stuffed. They were soon in retreat; soon Freddie Michalak was picked up and turned and just as quickly Ben Smith was coasting under the posts as finally, the counter attack came.

At 20-0, the valve could be eased. The All Blacks could have a little fun - inject some pace and flair into proceedings. Their final try was special - contained ludicrously good rugby and was all because by then, the handbrake was off. France must have hated the final quarter. They had been pegged in for an age and not only that, they had felt the full wrath of Sam Whitelock.

The Crusaders lock seems to have suddenly realised he's a big man, that he can throw his weight about and make others have a little think about what they are prepared to do about that. It was his defensive work at the lineout that France enjoyed the least - Whitelock being an irritation they could have done without.

France's frustration wasn't eased by the tenacity of Sam Cane who full understands what it means to have a No 7 on his back.

Israel Dagg started to come to life. His stutter step was back - always a good sign. Julian Savea was lively. Hungry for work and strong, so strong, when he found it.
What a miserable night for France - bludgeoned for 50 minutes then sliced to bits by the rapier.

New Zealand 30 (J. Savea, B. Smith, B. Barrett tries; A. Cruden 3 cons, 3 pens)
France 0

- Herald on Sunday

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