All Blacks too strong for France
Huw Turner, Scrum's New Zealand editor
The All Blacks scored a comfortable win over France in Wellington on Saturday evening, 37-12, in the process scoring 4 good tries and keeping the French try-less.
The match got off to a lively start, Elhorga , as expected , tested with an early high ball which he dealt with very well to start a counter. Umaga nipped it in the bud.
As the All Blacks set up their first attack, Maxwell catching well and Brown taking the ball to the French defence, the home side got a penalty chance but Brown pulled the ball wide.
Good French defence then picked Brown off as he again tried to make ground. The French got a penalty of their own as MacDonald impeded the approaching Elhorga, but Skrela too pulled his kick.
As the French then set up an impressive drive from a lineout on their throw , Cribb and Flavell endured a fearful clash of heads, the visitors got another penalty and Skrela made quick amends to give his side the lead. At this stage the French looked very competitive.
After 10 minutes the French again found themselves on the All Black 22 with line out throw, Maxwell infringed and Skrela comfortably kicked his second penalty .
The All Blacks were quickly back into attack, Dominici forced to concede a 5 metres scrum. The French impressively held the drive and forced a turnover. Skrela found himself under pressure behind his own line, Tabacco came to his rescue but conceded a penalty to give Brown another chance.This time he was successful.
At the other end, Brown had a clearing kick charged down forcing the All Blacks to scramble in defence. With the French defence resolute and aggressive , the All Blacks spent some time going nowhere until a penalty gave them the chance to camp in the French 22.
As the ball went left, the All Black forwards punched holes in the defence, Brown sniped and found Jeff Wilson free to run in the game's first try. Brown converted.
After 25 minutes,a magnificent break from Elhorga, inside his own 22, gave Jeanjean the chance to run up the right, but his kick ahead went straight out to frustrate the French. An exciting passage of play, 8 phases in all and started with an Umaga bust, ended with Reuben Thorne strolling in beneath the posts for his first test try as the French defence ran out of numbers. Brown's conversion was good.
The French responded with about 12 phases of their own until the ball was turned over, slipped to Lomu who set off on a trademark run down the left. Only a poor pass infield as the defence converged prevented another try. Half time came with the All Blacks ahead, 17-6.
The second half started with a bout of aerial ping pong until Galthie was penalized for failing to release. Brown kicked his second penalty, Skrela replied at once with his third after a similar All Black offence.
Jeanjean found himself under intense pressure from Wilson behind his own line after a good attacking kick from MacDonald. Skrela made a superb clearing kick to lift the siege. A skirmish on the ground, involving Galthie and Marshall, resulted in an All Black penalty and Brown kicked a superb penalty.
Front row changes , on both sides, came thick and fast as both coaches sought to use all their resources.This enlivened the French as they went in search of their first try, but they had to satisfy themselves with Skrela's fourth penalty.
The All Blacks found themselves under pressure after Maxwell was harshly sin-binned for a tackle adjudged by referee Lewis to be high. Skrela missed a golden opportunity to close the gap and perhaps justice was done.
One man short, the All Black scrum inevitably came under the cosh and the French, led by the impressive Tabacco, looked to exploit their numerical superiority. But determined defence, especially by Umaga, Brown and Randell, held them out as Maxwell returned.
Into the final ten minutes, the game became scrappy , neither side able to establish any dominance. But a superb break from Jeff Wilson, enjoying a very good match, split the French defence open to give Lomu an easy run in to the line, his 30th test try. Brown converted.
Howlett came on for McDonald and within 20 seconds screeched through the defence after he had been cleverly worked into space. Brown again converted.The end of the game came with the All Blacks well on top.
New Zealand : 37 : Tries : Wilson, Thorne, Lomu, Howlett Conversions : Brown (4) Penalties: Brown (3)
France : 12 : Penalties: Skrela (4)
New Zealand :
Leon MacDonald, Jeff Wilson, Tana Umaga, Pita Alatini, Jonah Lomu, Tony Brown, Justin Marshall, Ron Cribb, Taine Randell, Reuben Thorne, Troy Flavell, Norm Maxwell, Greg Somerville, Anton Oliver (captain), Carl Hoeft.
Replacements : Mark Hammett, Carl Hayman, Chris Jack, Marty Holah, Byron Kelleher, Andrew Mehrtens, Doug Howlett.
Pepito Elhorga, Nicolas Jeanjean, Yannick Jauzion, Stephane Glas, Christophe Dominici, David Skrela, Fabien Galthie (captain), Patrick Tabacco, Olivier Magne, Jean Bouilhou, Olivier Brouzet, Lionel Nallet, Christian Califano, Olivier Azam, Olivier Milloud.
Replacements: Raphael Ibanez, Jean Jacques Crenca, Pieter De Villiers, David Auradou, Sebastien Chabal, Gerald Merceron, Sebastien Bonetti.