Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Landmark 1994 loss has seed of comfort

Defeat by flying French 20 years ago the last time All Blacks beaten at Eden Park.

France have produced great performances in the intervening 20 years. Photo / Getty Images
France have produced great performances in the intervening 20 years. Photo / Getty Images

Solace in defeat is hard to find for the All Blacks but for the men of 1994 who lost to France 20 years ago today, there are a few factors that make that day sit a little easier in the memory.

The first is that the All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since. They drew 18-all with South Africa a month after that 23-20 defeat but have tasted victory in the 38 games they have played in Auckland since.

The All Blacks who played that day won't mind being wheeled out again in another 10 years if it is to mark the 30-year anniversary of the last time the national team lost at Eden Park.

What also helps them not mind is the conviction they were beaten by a brilliant try from a brilliant French side. France have produced great performances in the intervening 20 years but the class of 1994 are the only team other than the Springboks and Lions to win a series in New Zealand.

Matthew Cooper, who won the last of his eight caps that day at second-five, says: "We have to acknowledge that we were beaten by a very good French team. They had a huge amount of ability and desire and they had good players across the field.

"They had a very good goal-kicker in Thierry Lacroix and Philippe Sella was there so there was a lot of class..

"I don't think we as All Blacks had come together that well and while we played better in Auckland than we had the week before in Christchurch, we still weren't on top of our game."

The All Blacks had lost that opening test effort in Christchurch to which Cooper refers 22-8 and were therefore under all sorts of pressure coming into the second test.

"I'm pretty sure [coach] Laurie Mains had given us a giant boot up the arse after that first performance," recalls Frank Bunce. "But then I also remember that he tried to lighten the mood nearer the game. That he could sense we were quiet and really under pressure."

Neither he nor many of his teammates remember much other than the final score - which came to be known as the "try from the end of the world".

"I remember when they began the move to score the try, I initially thought there wasn't much danger," says the All Black right wing that day, John Kirwan.

"But then they kept coming and I thought, 'Oh-oh, we might be in some trouble here'."

The try from the end of the world

All Black first-five Stephen Bachop kicked long into the French 22. Left wing Philippe St Andre gathered, accelerated past Matthew Cooper and Sean Fitzpatrick before recycling. The ball went right, No 8 Philippe Benetton cut inside Jonah Lomu, there was a neat interplay between Laurent Cabannes, Emile Ntamack and Philippe Sella which put halfback Guy Accoceberry clear. He could have made it, but handed it on to the flying fullback Jean-Luc Sadourny who crossed through the tackle of John Timu.

All Blacks at Eden Park - since July 3, 1994

Played 31 Won 31
Biggest win - 48-14 over Scotland, 2000
Closet win - 8-7 over France, 2011 World Cup final
Most defeats - Australia 11

Record
All Blacks 28 Australia 16, July 22, 1995
All Blacks 36 Scotland 12, June 22, 1996
All Blacks 55 South Africa 35, August 9, 1997
All Blacks 40 England 10, June 27, 1998
All Blacks 34 Australia 15, 24 July, 1999
All Blacks 48 Scotland 14, 1 July, 2000
All Blacks 26 South Africa 15, 25 August, 2001
All Blacks 40 Ireland 8, 22 June, 2002
All Blacks 21 Australia 17, 16 Aug, 2003
All Blacks 36 England 12, 19 June 2004
All Blacks 38 British and Irish Lions 19, 9 July 2005
All Blacks 34 Australia 24, 3 September, 2005
All Blacks 27 Ireland 17, 17 June 2006
All Blacks 34 Australia 27, 19 August, 2006
All Blacks 42 France 11, 2 June, 2007
All Blacks 26 Australia 12, 21 July, 2007
All Blacks 37 England 20, 14 June, 2008
All Blacks 39 Australia 10, 2 August, 2008
All Blacks 22 Australia 16, 18 July, 2009
All Blacks 32 South Africa 12, 10 July, 2010
All Blacks 30 Australia 14, 6 August, 2011
All Blacks 41 Tonga 10, 9 September, 2011
All Blacks 37 France 17, 24 September, 2011
All Blacks 33 Argentina 10, 9 October, 2011
All Blacks 20 Australia 6, 16 October, 2011
All Blacks 8 France 7, 23 October, 2011
All Blacks 42 Ireland 10, 9 June, 2012
All Blacks 22 Australia 0, 25 August, 2012
All Blacks 23 France 13, 8 June, 2013
All Blacks 29 South Africa 15, 14 September, 2013
All Blacks 20 England 15, 7 June, 2014

Next test: vs Australia, 23 August

- NZ Herald

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