Superb All Blacks shut out France
June 15, 2013
New Zealand's Julian Savea looks for support during his side's victory in Christchurch
© Getty Images
New Zealand clinched a series victory over France with a 30-0 win in their second Test clash at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday night.
Aaron Cruden moved out of the shadow of Dan Carter and created his own image in the five-eight role, his performance, kicking especially, out of the top drawer and supplemented with outstanding tackling, especially close to rucks and mauls, and control of the play around the field.
The All Blacks scored three tries while France were indifferent, clumsy, tactically inefficient and completely lacking the intensity of their first Test effort a week earlier.
New Zealand led 10-0 at half-time then demonstrated their defensive intent with a brilliant display of defiance in the first nine minutes of the second half, and it was clear the Test series was going to be sewn up with a Test still to play. France mounted wave after wave of drives at the All Blacks line within five metres of the line, but there was no way through.
Then, almost predictably, the frustration resulted in a dropped goal attempt that was charged down. New Zealand surged with second five-eighth Ma' Nonu leading the way before wing Julian Savea charged onto the ball at full speed to break the defence and feed Ben Smith for the try.
Steve Hansen says the All Blacks deserved to win because of the hard-working attitude%]
The dose was repeated four minutes from the end of the game when another sustained period of pressure from France ended with the All Blacks running turnover ball from their own goal line. A long pass from Cruden, almost impossibly, found replacement wing Rene Ranger, who bumped off a defender then linked with Conrad Smith, who kicked ahead and the ball bounced for Cruden; the fly-half flicked a backhand pass to replacement Beauden Barrett, who raced in for the try.
The tries spoke volumes of the difference in class between the sides on the night: France could do nothing right. At one stage France attempted to clear the line only to have Cruden take the high ball untroubled and launch a 50-metre kick down the sideline that spun into touch just out from the line.
New Zealand utilised their kicking game to perfection while nearly every French downfield kick was matched by a failure to follow up, handing control back to the home team. By comparison, the French failed to achieve pressure through their kicking, several times finding New Zealand's back three of Israel Dagg, wings Ben Smith and Julian Savea perfectly placed to take the ball. Even Nonu got into the act with two perfectly placed grubber kicks threading the legs of the defenders to produce one first-half try and nearly another.
Try time for New Zealand's Ben Smith © Getty Images
New Zealand scored after only three minutes. After a well-placed Cruden bomb was knocked back by Dagg in pursuit, New Zealand had Nonu kick to the corner. From the lineout, lock Sam Whitelock, who was superb in the tight quarter, disrupted the French lineout sufficiently for prop Wyatt Crockett to secure the ball behind him. The forwards moved the ball right, and then Aaron Smith switched the play left and Nonu slipped a left-footed kick through to the corner, where Savea was untroubled to touch down.
Frederic Michalak attempted a dropped goal, which missed, then hit the upright with a 42-metre penalty kick after New Zealand had infringed in a lineout. Conrad Smith ran the ball back and found captain Kieran Read, who ran 40 metres downfield; Aaron Smith was taken out at a ruck, but Whitelock was into a halfback like a flash and fed prop Crockett who got over the advantage line. Aaron Smith kicked into the corner and fullback Maxime Medard was caught ball and all, and the penalty was conceded for Cruden to land the goal.
More kicks deep into French territory provided a chance for Nonu, and he made the most of a gap in the 27th minute to break through. Ben Smith was across from the right in support but was held back by Wesley Fofana. However, Nonu found Dagg who was dragged down just short of the line. France were penalised at the five-metre scrum but Cruden's kick was just wide.
France failed to make best use of their clearing kick and Dagg launched a high ball which the French couldn't control, Aaron Smith moved the ball right where Conrad Smith put the kick through forcing Maxime Machenaud to run the ball into touch five metres from the French line. Just to compound French frustrations, they lost control of a driving maul short of the All Blacks goal-line and the scrum feed was given to New Zealand.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September