Steve Hansen hails defensive effort
June 15, 2013
Ben Smith featured among the tryscorers © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen took personal pride in a record-setting defensive display to win the second Test against France at AMI Stadium in Christchurch and clinch the three-Test Gallaher Cup series, holding the tourists scoreless for the first time in 53 Tests.
France had not failed to score a point in a game since their 21-0 loss to Scotland in 1990, but the All Blacks kept the visitors pinned in their own half with a clinical forward effort and astute tactical kicking in slippery conditions. Hansen, however, was most pleased with the defence, saying it reflected well on the side's preparation and togetherness. "Defence wins games because it shows the attitude of the team and what they're about with each other," Hansen said. "That comes from off-the-field stuff as much as it does on."
All Blacks captain Kieran Read, meanwhile, said the team's defence in holding out the French through 19 phases at the start of the second half had set a terrific standard. "Tonight we really stuck at it, they really brought it to us in that area around the rucks and pick and goes," Read said. We've just got to build from that and it was certainly a great effort and it is awesome to put in that effort and get rewards at the end."
Steve Hansen says the All Blacks deserved to win because of the hard-working attitude%]
The All Blacks scored three tries while five-eighth Aaron Cruden kicked 15 points in a significantly improved all-round performance from last week's 23-13 victory in the first Test at Auckland. The world champions had spoken of a need to improve their general kicking game, and the clinical boots of Cruden, Israel Dagg and Aaron Smith delivered exactly that.
"We felt that if you can't run the ball because there's a wall in front of you, there's got to be space somewhere else," Hansen said. "That space was there last week; we just didn't have ourselves organised to utilise it. The kicking game was good, the chase was good and our defence was simply outstanding."
"We took another step forward on where we want to go to and that put pressure on them [France]. They had to keep turning around. I guess the conditions were well suited towards what we were doing as well."
Backs coach Ian Foster was very pleased with the way Julian Savea and Dagg had carried on their growth from the first Test. "Again, they were very sound under the high ball," he said. "I think we are getting very strong there, and their kicking and clearing from the exit stuff was good. I think Julian ran hard, and so did Israel, and nearly broke through a couple of times."
France, featuring four changes from the first Test, were guilty of handling errors in conditions spoiled by sporadic rain, and they struggled to match the set-piece prowess of the hosts. Five-eighth Frederic Michalak also aggravated a shoulder injury late in the game, which will rule him out of the final Test in New Plymouth next week, while No.8 Louis Picamoles is doubtful with a leg injury.
Coach Philippe Saint-Andre said his team was undone by mistakes against ruthless opponents. "You cannot give so many opportunities through losing the ball to a fantastic New Zealand side," he said. "I just hope we learn from these mistakes and carry on to play with pride now."
The All Blacks impressed against France in Christchurch (video available only in Australia)
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