There will be no rock under the towel this summer for the All Blacks after they produced a performance that demanded they dig to the deepest parts of themselves.

It was a game that required the All Blacks to show cool under pressure, to take all their half chances when they came and defend with the same relentless desire they had the week before. Not easy things to do in the final game of the year - but they were done and the win came to cap a year that was quite outstanding.

And the All Blacks will be happy enough now to take that summer break and not think about rugby for a couple of hours...or however long the off -season is these days.

This was a test that was almost as physical as the one in Ireland and had plenty more aerobic content to endure as well. This was a tough against a French side that looked nothing - absolutely nothing - like the one the All Blacks last met.


This lot can play. They had all the heart, the passion, the desire that a French team looking for revenge should have. But they also had cool heads, neat skills and patience. They had the ability to find holes, lots of them and play with the same sort of continuity as the All Blacks at their best.

For periods, especially in the first half, the All Blacks were having to defend as if they were still in Dublin. Yet they endured, they hung in there with a degree of confidence and trust in what they were doing and they needed a sucker punch or two, they found them.

The first came from a beautiful flat, cross field kick from Beauden Barrett that Julian Savea magnificently took before feeding Israel Dagg. The second came when Barrett intercepted on his own goal-line - and that was crucial. Game-changing even.

Test rugby rides this fine line. There were France, smashing through tackles, offloading and threatening all sorts. The line was at their mercy, they had done all the hard work and just needed the lass pass to touchdown in the corner and take the lead. And instead Beauden Barrett, with the most impeccable timing, flew off the line,poached the pass and went under the posts at the other end.

France could hardly believe it. All that hard work, all that pressure and they were traipsing back 90 metres to watch Barrett add the extras.

That was the turning point because until then, it was another case of the All Blacks having to absorb rather than apply pressure. That's been the pattern on this tour and may have something to do with the relative freshness of the northern teams.

They are cranking up, the All Blacks are winding down and for the first 40 minutes it looked exactly like that.

France had the energy. France had the drive, the hunger and they looked, refreshingly, like France. They stitched together some fluid rugby - bumping and bumping up the middle and then suddenly going wide and working the ball out of the tackle.

The morality of their desire to pillage the Pacific Islands of their best players is questionable, but when it nets them wings of the quality of Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa, it's understandable why they flirt with the outrage of the rest of the world.

The two Fijian wings lit the game up and the more they did so, the more France realised their best bet was to keep pushing it wide when they could and let those two run.

Nothing wrong with their plan, they just couldn't quite execute the way they wanted.

France 19 (L. Picamoles try; M. Machenaud 2 pens; B. Serin 2 pens)
New Zealand 24 (I. Dagg, B. Barrett, C. Faumuina tries; B. Barrett 3 cons, pen)
HT: 10-6