Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 18 News List

All Blacks beat spirited Tricolors

RESPECTABLE It was a much better all-round performance from a French side that was humiliated by the New Zealanders last weekend


New Zealand defeated France 23-11 at Stade de France on Saturday and swept the two-Test rugby series.

The All Blacks won the first Test 47-3 at Lyon last weekend and completed its first series win in France since 1990.

Coach Graham Henry named his best 15 for Saturday's game and while it didn't look like losing, a France well led by stand-in captain Raphael Ibanez played with far more passion.

"This was much better than Lyon," Tricolors coach Bernard Laporte said. "Our players showed the right mentality and spirit, and showed some of the attributes indispensable at the highest level."

"All this gives us a lot of hope. We were more vigilant in defense and more intelligent in our organization. We just lacked a bit of speed when we released the ball," he said.

Winger Cedric Heymans scored France's first try against the All Blacks in three years, but after flyhalf Daniel Carter's second penalty restored New Zealand's lead, the visitors were never headed, and maintained their unbeaten record against France in Paris since 1954.

"The French came out and played like we know they can do," New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said. "It was a great Test match."

Carter's third penalty was followed just before halftime by New Zealand's first try on a breakout from its 22 involving Carter and fullback Leon MacDonald, and finished by winger Joe Rokocoko.

"Overall, our players stuck well to the game plan," Laporte said. "We didn't give them a stick to beat us with like we did in Lyon. But the [first] try was a result of a moment of madness from us ... that gives me cause to groan."

Carter's conversion allowed New Zealand to go into the break up 16-5, which became 23-5 in the 50th minute thanks to Ma'a Nonu's seven-pointer.

Dimitri Yachvili's two penalties closed the gap somewhat, but New Zealand's defense was too good on a day in which France wore special white jerseys to mark 100 years of Test rugby.

"We played a very serious match and we tried very hard," Heymans said. "It's hard against them, but we'll see them again in a few months at the World Cup."

France started nervously and a poor kick from flyhalf Damien Traille was taken by Carter, who sprinted ahead and only a desperate tackle from fullback Pepito Elhorga stopped him scoring.

After Carter's first penalty, the Tricolors took the lead when Traille's high kick was spilled by MacDonald and Florian Fritz cleared to put Heymans in in the left corner. The relief at finally crossing the New Zealand tryline for the first time since the 2003 World Cup third-place playoff was evident as French fans celebrated.

The French held firm on the line twice in the first 15 minutes under intense pressure, but gave away another penalty, taken neatly by Carter.

Having conceded seven tries in Lyon, the French tackled ferociously at the Stade de France. Scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and flanker Julien Bonnaire made great tackles to stop Carter and center Mils Muliaina.

On the stroke of halftime, the All Blacks finally broke the French line after a sweeping crossfield move ended with Rokocoko knocked over by a shoulder-high tackle, but getting back on his feet for the score.

Ten minutes into the second half, Carter collected a pass from the New Zealand scrum, dummied one way and passed the other to send Nonu over the line for a converted try and a 23-5 lead.

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