All Blacks hit back in Wellington
June 20, 2009
The All Blacks perform the Haka at Westpac Stadium
© Getty Images
The All Blacks won the second Test but lost the silverware after prevailing 14-10 over France in a titanic arm-wrestle at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. An improved New Zealand forward effort proved the difference in a contest spoiled as a spectacle by freezing conditions and constant rain.
Victory wasn't enough for the All Blacks to retain the Dave Gallaher Cup, which goes to the French for the first time since the countries began competing for it nine years ago.
The hosts needed to win by six points or more to keep the silverware on points aggregate. Both teams scored a try each - including one of the great individual tries by French winger Cedric Heymans, who brilliantly evaded four defenders - but the All Blacks were deserved winners through creating more chances and winning the all-important territory battle.
There was a vast improvement in the physical exchanges that let them down so badly in the 27-22 first test loss at Dunedin last weekend. Seeking a repeat of the their 2-0 series triumph in New Zealand 15 years ago, France were a danger to snatch it via some unlikely counter-attacking in the second spell that defied the conditions. Swirling wind played havoc with the tactical kicking game of both teams, along with shots at goal, where France managed just two from six shots and New Zealand three from six.
Openside flanker Tanerau Latimer was industrious at the breakdown in his first test start for the All Blacks while fellow back-rows Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino were also strong, along with hooker Keven Mealamu and lock Brad Thorn. Both sides struggled to string together any expansive play, with All Blacks fly-half Stephen Donald enduring an error-prone evening, finding himself replaced in the final quarter by Luke McAlister.
Donald missed a tricky penalty attempt in the third minute while French centre Damien Traille narrowly missed a dropped goal attempt soon afterwards as the game quickly descended into a territorial slog. It wasn't until the 26th minute that either team launched a sustained attack, resulting in a try to All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu. Surges from Kaino and Mealamu gained ground before Nonu doubled around winger Joe Rokocoko, who popped a sweet pass in the tackle.
They nearly had a second moments later when right winger Cory Jane crashed over in the corner but third match official George Ayoub ruled no try as he couldn't see a grounding.
Scrum-half Dupuy missed long-range penalties in the 33rd and 36th minutes before Donald discovered his radar on the stroke of halftime to put his team 8-0 clear. France climbed within one point with a memorable solo try three minutes after the break, converted by Dupuy. Receiving the ball nearly halfway out in a metre of space on the left flank, Heymans scooted around opposite number Jane, swerved past fullback Mils Muliaina and cover defending No.8 Kieran Read before stepping inside Rokocoko.
New Zealand launched several attacking raids but stout France defence produced key turnovers on their own try-line more than once. Penalties became the preferred method of scoring from there, with Donald successful in the 55th minute and McAlister ten minutes later. French replacement scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili slotted three points with 12 minutes remaining but the only team who came close to scoring from there were New Zealand, when a bouncing ball slipped the grasp of Rokocoko near the tryline two minutes from time.
The All Blacks host Italy in Christchurch on Saturday next week while France cross the Tasman to play Australia in Sydney.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina (capt); Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko; Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Neemia Tialata, Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Jerome Kaino, Tanerau Latimer, Kieran Read
Replacements: Aled de Malmanche, John Afoa, Bryn Evans, George Whitelock, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Isaia Toeava
France: Maxime Medard; Vincent Clerc, Maxime Mermoz, Damien Traille, Cedric Heymans; Francois Trinh-Duc, Julien Dupuy; Fabien Barcella, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Sebastien Chabal, Romain Millo-Chluski, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo, Remy Martin, Damien Chouly, Dimitri Yachvili, Yannick Jauzion, Mathieu Bastareaud