All Blacks click into gear against France

10th Jun 2007, 11:12


Too strong: Jerry Collins bursts through some French tackles

Too strong: Jerry Collins bursts through some French tackles

New Zealand recorded an easy 61-10 win over France in the second Test as expected on Saturday, but the manner of the win was far more convincing than last week, and was a gentle reminder that perhaps this All Black team has not played its best already.

New Zealand recorded an easy 61-10 win over France in the second Test as expected on Saturday, but the manner of the win was far more convincing than last week, and was a gentle reminder that perhaps this All Black team has not played its best already.

However, there are still worries for Graham Henry, with locks Keith Robinson and Ali Williams both leaving the game injured - Robinson before the game had even started!

For France, the result, a record defeat against any team, will only serve to reinforce Bernard Laporte's view that this was a tour that should never have gone ahead.

June the 6th was D-Day when the Allied Forces went across the Channel to liberate France. On June the 9th France went half way across the world and were captured and destroyed by New Zealand.

The All Blacks were much too good. No matter what they did the French had no real counter to it. Oh, they could get in the way and act bravely but they had no real answer as yet another Northern Hemisphere side - labelled weakened/understrength - gave a Southern Hemisphere side the opportunity to break records in a match practice masquerading as a Test match.

The French simply could not threaten the All Blacks. Their forwards were destroyed in the scrums, outnumbered and outpowered at the tackle/ruck and beaten at the many kick-offs. When their backs had the ball they were disjointed and jittery. France's rugby is renowned for its skilful back play - sophisticated handling off great running lines, fixing an opponent to let someone else run with elan. There was no elan on a still, cold Wellington night with steam on the breath.

The difference between the two teams was most probably more than 51 points.

And so the All Blacks won the series 2-0 and retained the Dave Gallaher trophy which is in competition between the two countries.

For the All Blacks there was some concern about their locks. They have already lost Jason Eaton and James Ryan to injury and neither will be at the World Cup. On this cold night Keith Robinson tore a calf muscle in the on-field warm-up just before the Test. Then during the match Sébastien Chabal charged. Ali Williams stood up to him and crashed to the ground. Williams went off blood trickling from his mouth and he was bundled into an ambulance and taken to hospital with a jaw possibly fractured.

Both could recover before the World Cup but it is not consoling for the All Blacks. Troy Flavell was brought onto the bench in Robinson's place and then onto the field in Williams's place and played a half and a bit.

New Zealand hit the match running but France scored first when Williams was penalised for holding on in a tackle.

Luke McAlister could have levelled the score but hit the upright on a night when he did all the kicking and did it poorly. Had he been accurate the score would have been over 70.

After McAlister's kick bounced infield, the All Blacks scored. Young Arnaud Mignardi opted not to kick the ball away but ran it up and then knocked on. From the ensuing scrum the All Blacks bashed and bashed with Byron Kelleher and Richie McCaw, both playing their 50th Test, prominent till Anton Oliver dived at the padding on the post and scored. McAlister converted to put the All Blacks ahead after 121 minutes. The French lead lasted seven minutes and did not return.

After McAlister had kicked two penalties, the All Blacks ran from depth in a match when their back three were much, much more involved than they had been at Eden Park. Leon MacDonald kicked ahead and Julien Laharrague conceded a five-metre scrum.

From the scrum Kelleher went to the right and powered over despite the efforts to stop him of Benjamin Boyet, young Damien Chouly and Laharrague. 20-3.

Form the kick-off, the All Blacks won the ball and Kelleher kicked downfield. French scrum-half Nicolas Durand went back to collect the bouncing ball near the touch-line on France's left. His back to chasing Joe Rokocoko, Durand played the ball infield, intending it for Chabal. Rokocoko enjoyed intercepting the little pass and set off for the line and the first of his two tries in the match McAlister missed the easy conversion but New Zealand led 25-3 after 27 minutes.

It was just after this that Williams departed, bloodied after he had stopped the warrior-like Chabal.

France had a five-metre line-out after a penalty and tried a maul. It was not much of a maul and they lost the ball. That happened again in the second half. They simply could make no impression on the All Blacks.

The All Blacks went on one of their mazy attacks with their wings much in evidence till Flavell gave Rokocoko a pass and his second try.

While the French ran sideways and made no ground, the All Blacks were direct and made lots of ground.

That made the half-time score 38-3. The half had been a better performance for New Zealand than they had managed in the whole of their big first-Test win.

The French had the ball early in the second half but Jack won it off them on the right. On the far left as the All Blacks chain-passed across the field, Sitiveni Sivivatu dismissed Thomas Castaignède and sent MacDonald running 40 metres for the try. 35-5

The All Blacks were close again from the kick-off and were inside the French 22 when France scored. Isaia Toeava knocked on a difficult inside pass from Nick Evans and Durand snapped it up. He raced down the middle of the field with the faster All Blacks closing in on him. He stopped, waited and gave to Benjamin Thierry who gave to Laharrague who scored. Boyet converted. 35-10 after 52 minutes.

Chabal went off at this stage to cheers from the crowd who acknowledged a brave competitor and great personality. And France signed off, leaving the All Blacks to play against themselves.

Toeava took an inside pass from McAlister and scored at the posts. 42-10.

New Zealand made a penalty into a five-metre line-out and bashed and bashed till Jerry Collins scored through four tacklers. McAlister converted. 49-10 with 14 minutes to play.

The All Blacks did some more mazy running with wonderful support till Rodney So'oialo grubbered across field but the ball ran into touch five metres from the French line.

France cleared their lines but not far enough. Keven Mealamu threw into Neemia Tialata who popped it back to Mealamu who scampered off to score. 54-10.

France were in tatters. Olivier Magne had to move out to centre while captain Raphaël Ibañez came quietly onto the field to play flank.

After Jack had won a French throw into a line-out, McAlister burst free and sent Evans scooting for the posts. McAlister converted to set new records to French humiliation.

Man of the Match: Take your All Black pick but the most impressive player every time he got the ball - and he got it more often than usual because he looked for work - was Joe Rokocoko.

Moment of the Match: There were lots of exciting moments but the most memorable