French stun All Blacks to book semi final spot
October 6, 2007
Yannick Jazion darts in for France's controversial winning score
© Getty Images
France came from 13-0 down to dump favourites New Zealand out of the World Cup and complete a miserable day for the southern hemisphere. Thierry Dusautoir and Yannick Jauzion scored second-half tries to help the hosts to a thrilling 20-18 quarter-final win in Cardiff and secure a last-four clash with England in St Denis next Saturday.
The All Blacks' Rugby World Cup dream has crashed and burned once again, this time at the hands of a desperate France, who won a dramatic quarterfinal 20-18 here tonight.
Scenes of sheer joy erupted around Millennium Stadium from thousands of French supporters who could hardly believe their team had upset the world No 1 side and stayed alive in the tournament they host.
In contrast, there was utter dejection from the New Zealanders, who traipsed off in a state of disbelief -- a look all-too familiar at World Cups for long-suffering supporters.
It is the worst ever return at the tournament for the All Blacks, who have never failed to reach the semifinals and is a result that will send shockwaves through a country which fully expected to end a 20-year drought since they won the inaugural crown in 1987.
Four years of planning and buildup from highly-successful coach Graham Henry lie in tatters.
His tenure was marked by countless strategies to have his team at their peak for this tournament.
The recriminations against he and his coaching staff remain to be seen while the test probably marks the end of at least seven All Blacks, who are leaving for European club contracts next year.
In shades of France's epic semifinal defeat of New Zealand at Twickenham eight years ago, Les Bleus trailed 0-13 after half an hour but refused to lie down, playing with a resilience and passion the All Blacks couldn't match.
A desperate 50m dropped goal attempt from Luke McAlister was all the spent All Blacks could muster as the French defended valiantly over the closing stages.
The victory was one for pragmatism over skill, with France relying on kicking and a blue wall of defence to hold out a New Zealand side who insisted mainly on keeping the ball in hand but were thwarted at every turn.
The result capped a coup for northern hemisphere rugby after England upset Australia 12-10 in the first quarterfinal at Marseille earlier today.
It was the All Blacks' first loss to France in 10 tests since 2000 and the first loss Henry's men have suffered against any opposition from the northern hemisphere. The All Blacks hadn't lost in Europe since 2002.
Pre-test suggestions that the All Blacks had not played enough hard rugby in pool play to prepare for this game appeared ill-founded as they dominated the opening exchanges.
However, the flow gradually went from their game against the suffocating approach of the French, while the New Zealanders were hammered in the penalty count by young English referee Wayne Barnes.
Pre-match predictions that France would rely on a kicking game proved spot on.
They barely sent the ball more than one pass wide while fullback Damien Traille was reluctant to attempt a counter-attack but kicked with length and accuracy, forcing the All Blacks to make all the play.
One of the more dramatic hakas in recent memory kick-started a game of matching intensity.
The French stood on the halfway line, barely 1m from the All Blacks performing Ka Mate and players from both teams exchanged words and pointed when the pre-match challenge was completed.
Some of the heat was taken out of the start when French flanker Serge Betsen was knocked out in an early tackle on winger Joe Rokocoko. There was a five-minute break before play resumed and a dazed Betsen was replaced by Imanol Harinordoquy.
The opening exchanges were even before the All Blacks enjoyed their first solid period of possession and a long phase of play resulted in a 13th minute penalty to first five-eighth Carter.
The game burst open 4 minutes later when second five-eighth McAlister made two sizzling breaks.
The first bust appeared to result in a try to lock Ali Williams but replays showed he was bundled into touch 1m out.
There was no mistake from the next play when France failed to find touch and McAlister scythed through once more. He linked with flanker Jerry Collins and received a return pass before crabbing over for the only first-half try.
Carter extended the lead to 13-0 with a 31st-minute penalty while opposite Lionel Beauxis and halfback Jean-Baptiste Elissalde both missed kickable attempts.
Beauxis made amends with a penalty on the stroke of halftime and added another soon after the break from the incident that led to McAlister being sinbinned.
New Zealand looked to be holding out for that 10 minutes until the French broke from a quick 22m dropout, with the extended attack eventually resulting a try to impressive flanker Thierry Dusautoir.
The conversion levelled the score, sparking movement from the All Blacks reserve bench with halfback Brendon Leonard, first five-eighth Nick Evans, hooker Andrew Hore and lock Chris Jack on for Byron Kelleher, an injured Carter, Anton Oliver and Keith Robinson.
The fresh legs provided an instant lift as an All Blacks surge resulted in relentless No 8 Rodney So'oialo driving over to plant the ball on the tryline.
McAlister missed the conversion and France struck back for the decisive try to second five-eighth Yannick Jauzion with 11min remaining.
It appeared to emanate from a forward pass by centre David Marty to reserve first five-eighth Frederic Michalak, who raced 50m before throwing a pass.
It proved a killer blow against an All Blacks side who will have four more years to digest more World Cup heartbreak.
New Zealand (13) 18
France (3) 20
New Zealand: MacDonald, Rokocoko, Muliaina, McAlister, Sivivatu, Carter, Kelleher; Woodcock, Oliver, Hayman, Robinson, Williams, Collins, McCaw (capt), So'oialo.
Replacements: Hore, Tialata, Jack, Masoe , Leonard, Evans, Toeava.
France: Traille, Clerc, Marty, Jauzion, Heymans, Beauxis, Elissalde; Milloud, Ibanez (capt), De Villiers, Pelous, Thion, Betsen, Dusautoir, Bonnaire.
Replacements: Szarzewski, Poux, Chabal, Harinordoquy, Michalak, Dominici, Poitrenaud