Second-string France prove Test class
June 11, 2013
The Blues' George Moala is tackled by France's Gael Fickou and Seru akaitaci
© Getty Images
France defeated the Blues 38-15 at North Harbour Stadium on Tuesday, scoring tries in nine minutes early in the second half to stun their hosts. Jean Marc Doussain, meanwhile, landed three conversions and four penalty goals in an outstanding demonstration of goal-kicking as the French demonstrated encouraging depth of talent having rung the changes from the team that lost the first Test at Eden Park.
Indiscipline by the Blues cost them dearly as France eased to a 12-3 lead 24 minutes into the game, and the hosts were never able to reduce the margin thereafter as it became apparent early in the game that they were going to spend a deal of time tackling to halt an unrelenting French tide. The French pack mauled their rivals in the loose, playing with an intensity beyond anything many of the inexperienced members of the Super Rugby squad had struck.
The Blues were not without prospects. Captain and hooker James Parsons was combative throughout, while No.8 Peter Saili relished the physicality of the contest with some punishing runs to turn at least some of the tide back on the French. Lock Culum Retallick was another to thrive in the tight exchanges.
The Blues got on the board first courtesy of a second-minute penalty goal by first five-eighths Baden Kerr, but he failed a concussion test after taking a blow and left the field in the first quarter.
Maxime Medard, the only member of the Test team to start against the Blues, looked to run the ball at every chance, and he was effective with his upright running style in ghosting in and out of tackle attempts. He made one glorious break from deep within his own 22 after a Blues mistake when Retallick dropped the ball, setting in train some outstanding handling as the ball flicked between the outside backs and loose forwards in "basketball" contest. Scrambling Blues defence frustrated the French efforts to score, and that was demonstrated when first five-eighths Remi Tales resorted to a dropped goal attempt five minutes from half-time.
The Blues started the second half with more intent, but they left themselves vulnerable while trying to run the ball out from their own 22, and the French made the most of an early chance after an uncontrolled lineout for centre Gael Fickou to get over the line. Four minutes later, wing Seru Nakaitaci was over after a superb demonstration of passing at pace among the backs. And that same assured movement of the ball in the 53rd minute resulted in a second try for Nakaitaci as France hit their straps.
The Blues were not prepared to stand back, and continuity play had its reward, especially after a penalty five metres out was played rather than taking a shot at goal with Parsons touching down at the end of several pick-and-goes.
Back on attack the Blues benefitted when an apparent change of mind by replacement first five-eighth Marty McKenzie looked to have counted against them, but they retained the ball and wing George Moala was put into a gap to score from a maul.
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown