France overruns All Blacks 40-25 in Paris after four decades

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Second successive defeat for the mighty New Zealand team

France’s wing Damian Penaud runs for his crucial try (AFP Photo)

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Paris, November 21, 2021

Three tries in the second half were not enough for the All Blacks to prevent a heavy loss to France at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday evening (NZT Sunday morning)

After leading 24-6 at half-time, the French weathered an All-Black fightback in the second half and sealed the victory with a try to Damian Penaud in the 66th minute.

Les Bleus ended a 14-match losing streak against their rivals with tries by Peato Mauvaka, Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud, while Melvyn Jaminet kicked the rest of the points with clockwork precision.

After Ireland, France

The All Blacks, who threatened a comeback with three tries in 20 minutes early in the second half through Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Ardie Savea, suffered their second defeat in a row after being humbled 29-20 by Ireland last weekend.

The home side’s stunning performance completed a perfect series for France after wins against Argentina and Georgia and gave them their first victory in Paris against the All Blacks since 1973. New Zealand had not lost against Les Bleus since 2009 and had been unbeaten in France since 2000.

It was the final game of the All Blacks’ 2021 season and the second back-to-back defeat for the team in 12 months.

Great mix of flair and power

The thrilling test encapsulated the French game – an exhilarating mix of flair and power to which Les Bleus added their tendency to let things slip from their hands.

New Zealand made seven changes to the team after losing to Ireland, notably bringing in Richie Mo’unga at Flyhalf after Beauden Barrett failed to recover in time from a knock, alongside experienced Scrumhalf Aaron Smith. But they were not a match for Les Bleus’ poise, pace and power.

France Coach Fabien Galthie, who captained that the team that won 42-33 in Marseille in 2000 for their last home win over the All Blacks, restored Ntamack to his favoured flyhalf position after fielding him at centre in the previous tests and it paid off.

A quick combination between Dupont and Ntamack put the visitors’ defence on the back foot and the resulting lineout, the maul brought Mauvaka over the line. Barrett, however, slotted two penalties as France paid for a lack of discipline under sustained pressure.

Opening with lead

France opened an eight-point lead as Ntamack faked a pass to the outside before evading two tackles with a clever side-step and diving over.

Jaminet’s penalty from an angle extended the advantage.

France threatened on almost every incursion into New Zealand’s half, to the deafening roars of a raucous crowd which was sent into raptures when Mauvaka went over again after another dominant maul from a lineout for his fifth try in nine caps.

Les Bleus were less focused after the interval and their advantage started to melt as Barrett touched down in the corner after a pass from Smith before Ioane dazzled through the midfield to add a second try in four minutes.

France’s defence was at a loss and a driving maul from a penalty lineout sent Savea over the line. Barrett converted to slash the deficit to two points.

A splendid counterattack from his own 22 metres by Ntamack brought France close to the line and Savea was sin-binned for being off his feet with the hosts back in control after Jaminet’s penalty. Penaud then grabbed a loose ball and raised his arm in anticipated celebration as he ran unchallenged towards the line to give France a lead they would not surrender.

The two teams will face off at the same venue in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup in two years.

-Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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