Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: ABs repay try from world's end

Head coach Philippe Saint-Andre of France. Photo / Getty Images
Head coach Philippe Saint-Andre of France. Photo / Getty Images

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre is now absorbing the pain he inflicted on the All Blacks 19 years ago.

A final movement he instigated at Eden Park and later described as the "try from the end of the world" gave France a series-winning 23-20 victory against the All Blacks.

On Saturday, he watched two All Black specials vie with that description as they scrapped and then sprinted their way to a 30-0 series triumph.

Where French fullback Jean Luc Sadourny completed the thrilling move in 1994, All Black wing Ben Smith then replacement fullback Beauden Barrett finished the All Black thrills on Saturday night.

Take your pick for the best; for me Smith's try wins.

Barrett's touchdown came after a display of some sublime attacking skills in a 100m dash while Smith's try ended nearly four minutes of lung-busting defence and discipline on their own line, which broke the French nerve.

At that stage France were still only 10-0 adrift after existing on 20 per cent first-half possession. On the resumption they turned up the flame. It was a pivotal time in the test.

The All Blacks held their composure to repel an incredible 26 phases.

As the forwards bashed away, the French backline got more twitchy about their involvement until halfback Maxime Machenaud fired a pass back to Frederic Michalak in the pocket. Michalak has plenty of skill but his instincts do not always cope best with defence.

Cue Saturday when Sam Cane charged down his dropped goal attempt before Michalak withered as he tried to retrieve the situation.

Ma'a Nonu reclaimed the ball, Aaron Smith fired out another sharp pass to Dane Coles, who found Julian Savea snorting up an inside channel to unload to Ben Smith.

In 23 devastating seconds on top of their exceptional defence, the All Blacks had turned pressure into profit and the Dave Gallaher trophy settled back into its holder.

The icing came very late through Barrett.

Debate will continue about the order of merit for the All Black tries.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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