First half power play ends French hopes
A RUTHLESS firsthalf blitz from New Zealand was enough to hold-off a spirited French fightback in Paris.
Beauden Barrett orchestrated tries for Dane Coles and Waisake Naholo.
Teddy Thomas got one back for France but Ryan Crotty and Sam Cane competed a near faultless first-half performance.
The rookie half-back duo of Antoine Dupont and Antoine Belleau gave those watching a snapshot into what promises to be a bright future for France.
It did not take long for New Zealand to click into gear at a rain-soaked Stade de France. Aaron Smith sniped from the base of a five-metre scrum. The All Blacks kept their icy composure and handed the ball to playmaker Barrett, who found Coles running a destructive angle to score from close range.
Barrett added the extras before finding the target with another penalty as France went 10-0 down after 17 minutes.
It looked as if the floodgates had been opened five minutes later. The visitors put the squeeze on at two five-metre scrums before letting Barrett play off the third. He drew in the defence and threw an inch perfect pass over it for Naholo to dot down.
He landed the tricky conversion, but France struck back five minutes later when a disguised offload from Mathieu Bastareaud allowed Geoffrey Doumayrou to combine with Nans Ducuing and send Thomas over at the corner.
Rabah Slimani was sinbinned for bringing down a scrum. Sony Bill Williams showed his full repertoire of skills to send a delicate kick through for Crotty to crash over, and there was still time for a fourth converted try of the half.
Rieko Ioane showed searing pace down his left wing before combing with Damien McKenzie, who used quick hands to send Cane crashing over for a 31-5 half-time lead.
Belleau landed a penalty after the restart before a moment of madness from Williams gifted the French a penalty try.
The cross-code international batted a kick aimed at Yoann Huget behind his own try line with his hand and was shown a yellow card before referee Angus Gardner awarded a penalty try.
Belleau cut the gap to 13 points with another penalty before Vaea Fifita produced a try saving tackle to deny Thomas a second.
France had one final chance, but Steve Hansen’s men produced an almighty shunt at a five metre scrum to seal victory.
First of five: Dane Coles scores the opening try