All Blacks humiliate France in Cardiff

Date published: October 17 2015

New Zealand laid to rest the ghosts of 1999 and 2007 as they embarrassed France 62-13 with a dominant performance at the Millennium Stadium.

The All Blacks set up a mouthwatering semi-final thanks to a hat-trick from Julian Savea, never giving France a sniff of a third World Cup upset as they claimed the biggest win in World Cup knock-out history.

The Philippe Saint-André era came to the most shuddering of ends against a clinical All Black side that ran in four first-half tries to end the game as a contest in their best performance of the tournament to date.

The boos rang out for the French, but on this form New Zealand will rightfully be restored as World Cup favourites after adding five more tries in the second half. They will face better opposition next week and potentially in the final, but they will take some stopping if they can recreate performances like this.

Brodie Retallick got them started with a chargedown score which also proved to be Frédéric Michalak's last contribution, injuring his leg in the process.

Nehe Milner-Skudder then added a second and when Savea ran in his first, the All Blacks were cruising at 24-6.

Louis Picamoles pulled one back for France but any thoughts of a comeback were quickly dismissed as Savea crashed his way through for a Jonah Lomu-esque second to make it 29-13 at the break, equalling the great man's 37 Test tries before overtaking it in the second half.

France weren't actually playing that poorly in the first half, but the All Blacks punished any errors before cutting loose in the second 40 minutes.

Their job got harder early in the second half when Picamoles was sin-binned for a shove to Richie McCaw's face on the ground, and in his absence Jerome Kaino scored New Zealand's fifth.

As if to underline their dominance, Savea raced in for an easy third when Noa Nakaitaci was stripped in midfield and the ball was delivered to the winger to race in from halfway.

The seventh came from Kieran Read before Tawera Kerr-Barlow scored two as France completely collapsed, although Brice Dulin at least came back to deny Ma'a Nonu the tenth try with a fantastic cover tackle on the final play.

The signs were ominous early on, with New Zealand making ground with every carry, stealing the first French lineout and generally looking a step-up from their performances to date in the competition.

France meanwhile saw Yoann Maestri turned over on his first carry, while Thierry Dusautoir, on what was likely a sorry goodbye to Test rugby, missed two tackles in the first five minutes, having famously not missed one in the corresponding fixture eight years ago.

And yet France could have had the first try as Wesley Fofana, France's best player by a country mile, pounced on messy ruck ball on halfway and was in the clear. Nigel Owens had spotted a French infringement though, and it was Carter who slotted the first points for the All Blacks.

France hadn't been in the New Zealand half, but they levelled the scores with a long-range penalty from Scott Spedding after New Zealand had slowed the ball down in a ruck.

That didn't last long though as Retallick charged down Michalak from a dreadfully slow clearance kick, with the ball popping up for the simplest stroll in. Literally adding insult to injury, Michalak appeared to pull his groin in the process of kicking, and had to leave the field after just 11 minutes.

Rémi Talès replaced him, but after Carter converted les Bleus, playing in red, pulled three points back through a Morgan Parra penalty.

They should have been back to within a point thanks but Parra missed a sitter after France nearly scored. Conrad Smith was brilliantly scragged in midfield by Picamoles before inexplicably chucking the ball backwards and Nakaitaci was first onto it as Savea dallied. The winger did enough to stop Nakaitaci but the All Blacks were offside and Parra should have knocked over his second penalty, only to pull it to the right.

France were starting to get into the game, with New Zealand looking a little rattled but on 23 minutes, Milner-Skudder showed why he had been selected with a trademark step. After a Carter drop goal was charged down New Zealand scrambled back, but calmly recycled before Milner-Skudder stepped back off his right past Brice Dulin and raced away for the try. Carter converted and New Zealand 17-6.

That try appeared to kill off any French hopes, and New Zealand were soon in again, this time thanks to some magic from Carter. The All Black fly-half spotted a mismatch in midfield and handed off Pascal Papé before a delightful backhand flick for the easy finish for Savea. Carter again added the extras and the game was over as a contest, New Zealand leading 24-6.

France needed a try before half-time to have any hope and they got it with their first real period of sustained possession. Regularly making ground with ball in hand, they worked their way into the 22. When a pass was missed by Bernard le Roux, Picamoles pounced and then had the strength to barge his way over from ten metres out. Parra converted to cut the deficit to 11 with four minutes left in the half.

The doubts could have crept in, but instead New Zealand fired straight back with a brutal, bludgeoning second from Savea. Ben Smith got up highest to beat Picamoles to a Carter bomb and with France in disarray, Savea bounced off both Nakaitaci and Spedding for the try. Carter missed the conversion but New Zealand led 29-13 at the break.

France started the second half the stronger and set up camp in the New Zealand 22. When McCaw pulled down a French maul and then refused to release the ball as Parra tried to take it quickly, Picamoles reacted with a push to the face, causing the penalty to be overturned and earning ten minutes in the sin-bin.

Down to 14, France were up against it, and New Zealand had their fifth on 50 minutes. Beauden Barrett, on at half-time for Milner-Skudder delivered the final pass to Kaino after an initial break on the right by Ben Smith.

Savea completed his hat-trick with a turnover score and New Zealand were in cruise control, with every offload going to hand, and Read and then Kerr-Barlow popping up in support following line breaks to finish off more tries.

Back to their very best, this All Black team will be big favourites against South Africa next week. For France a miserable four years comes to an end in embarrassing fashion, Saint-André appearing to a chorus of boos at the final whistle.

Man of the match: For a man who is seemingly out of form, Julian Savea was excellent once more, overtaking Jonah Lomu with a stunning hat-trick as France never found a way to stop him.

Moment of the match: Nine minutes in Frédéric Michalak was too slow clearing the ball as France finally got hold of the ball. Brodie Retallick charged him down, collected and scored, while Michalak limped off. It only got worse from there for les Bleus.

Villain of the match: Despite Louis Picamoles' yellow card, the game was played in good spirit.

The scorers:

For France:
Con: Parra
Pens: Spedding, Parra
Yellow Card: Picamoles

For New Zealand:
Retallick, Milner-Skudder, Savea 3, Kaino, Read, Kerr-Barlow 2
Cons: Carter 7
Pen: Carter

The teams:

France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Brice Dulin, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Damien Chouly, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), John Lacey (Ireland)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

By Paul Eddison at the Millennium Stadium