French wheels fall off after more controversy
DAMIAN McKenzie stole the show with a mouth-watering flyhalf display to ensure the world champions crushed the French resistance to wrap up a rampant 3-0 series win in Dunedin.
McKenzie amassed 24 points, including two tries, while wing Rieko Ioane scored a superb 12-minute second half hat-trick as the All Blacks eventually smothered their rivals into submission.
But again the victory was assisted by a controversial refereeing decision which, as in the first two games, was followed by a rapid French meltdown in confidence and belief.
Debateable yellow and red cards helped send the tourists sliding to heavy defeats in Auckland and then Wellington. This time it was experienced Irish referee John Lacey who riled the French and had them screaming Bleus murder.
Lacey allowed the first of McKenzie’s two tries to stand with the scores level at 14-14 in the first half despite the official clearly obstructing replacement French No.9 Baptiste Serin.
Serin was blocked by the unwitting Lacey as he tried to tackle McKenzie who was racing onto Aaron Smith’s pass from a well worked scrum.
Lacey decided there was no reason to change his mind after reviewing a replay of the incident. It was a pivotal moment and France failed to register another point in the game having again made a red hot start to the Test.
Until that moment, the visitors had pushed the All Blacks onto the back foot and controlled the ball and game. Morgan Parra sparked a furious 21-phase French onslaught when he intercepted McKenzie’s pass but it failed to conjure a try as the All Blacks soaked up the pressure.
The France scrum-half took a blow to the head in the process and needed treatment before leaving the field having an HIA, which he failed. His replacement Serin found the opening with a fine dummy for the opening try.
Anthony Belleau converted and the hosts were rattled as they had been in the opening two games before France capitulated.
Sonny Billy Williams fed Ben Smith for the All Blacks opening try and just a few minutes later the French defence was too weak to stop a driving New Zealand maul pushing them back and flanker Matt Todd, who had replaced Ardie Savea, touched the ball down.
The visitors replied with their own decisive attack, finishing with centre Wesley Fofana bursting through for a try converted by Belleau. But that was it.
McKenzie profited from Lacey’s intervention as the referee’s blocking of Serin opened up the defence for him to race over and from then on it was an All Blacks landslide with Ioane scoring three quick tries.
Lacey’s bad day continued as he first awarded blindside Shannon Frizell a try only for the TMO to disagree and order him to change his decision having seen the All Black not ground the ball properly.
The Irishman also blundered when failing to spot a Luke Whitelock knock-on in the build up to Ioane’s third try. But the damage had been done. New Zealand had clinched a series whitewash.
Hat-trick hero: Rieko Ioane dives over to score one of his three for New Zealand
Star turn: Damian McKenzie runs in to score