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France 19-26 New Zealand
Piutau stays humble despite heroics
November 10, 2013
New Zealand winger Charles Piutau celebrates his try, France v New Zealand, Stade de France, Paris, November 9, 2013
All Blacks wing Charles Piutau has made an impressive start to his Test career © Getty Images
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It was all or nothing for All Blacks wing Charles Piutau when he laid on the decisive try in their 26-19 win over France in Paris. Twenty-two-year-old Piutau was keeping his feet on the ground after proving a match-winner in just his third Test start, bringing life to a game that had resembled trench warfare for 45 minutes.

He used pace to win a race to the ball and score the first try, but it was his no-look reverse flick pass to send Kieran Read over in the 65th minute that was most captivating.

"It was instinct," he said. "I saw an opportunity. What was going through my head was that I hoped he (Read) was catching it and it wasn't an intercept."

Piutau remained humble despite his heroics, a trait which has impressed coach Steve Hansen all year. His maturity was remarkable, Hansen said, the Auckland flyer clearly learning new things without direction during games, rather than having to be taught them by coaches.

"To score the try he did, showed a lot of pace and to set up the try for Kieran showed a lot of skill and flair. He's got a lovely mixture of both," Hansen said.

Hansen said the Test was vastly different to some of the comfortable wins lodged this year.

"We had to show some real resilience, some composure, patience and at times deal with their frustrations," Hansen said. "We had to take the win, we weren't given a win and we had to fight hard for it. It was pleasing to see that they did that."

France produced one of the best performances of a disappointing year in which they have won just one of nine Tests. They outplayed the All Blacks in most areas in the first half, firstly by frustrating their opponents with staunch defence on a heavy Stade de France surface and then attacking with considerable verve.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said the difference between the teams was the All Blacks' ability to make the most of their limited chances. He said New Zealand's resilience explained why they had lost just one of their last 33 Tests.

"Statistics say they must be the best team in the history of rugby," he said. "They are very clever; very, very intelligent. We were close to the line so many times, then they get two opportunities and score two tries. Obviously we're disappointed because, particularly in the first half, there were opportunities there."

The All Blacks remain unbeaten in 2013 after a hard-fought victory over France (Australia only)
© AAP
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