Kiwi captain Read pays tribute to fired-up French
NEW ZEALAND 24, FRANCE 9
ALL BLACKS captain Kieran Read paid tribute to French resilience as his New Zealand charges were forced to dig deep to complete a 3-0 series triumph in New Plymouth.
Replacement Beauden Barrett's 80th-minute try from a sweeping counter-attack helped the hosts to a flattering victory.
The All Blacks had it far too easy in their 30-0 win in Christchurch a week ago, but lacked the same level of execution this time around against a fired-up French side.
"Credit to the French they really stuck at it," said New Zealand captain Read.
"A three-match series is quite tough away from home and they showed the quality side they are. They really took it to us this game."
After a stubborn performance throughout, France were let down in the final 10 minutes when lock Yoann Maestri was sin-binned for an apparent headbutt.
Out-half Daniel Carter had kicked 14 points and winger Ben Smith, a candidate for New Zealand's man of the series, added a contentious first-half try.
It looked like he had lost control of the ball as he slid in under two defenders following a brilliant skip pass from full-back Israel Dagg.
France scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain slotted two penalties – both off the post – and his Toulouse team-mate, centre Florian Fritz, added a drop-goal for the visitors, who briefly led 9-8 just after the interval.
The All Blacks, however, finally got back on top of their opponents and Carter – making his first appearance in the series – kicked three penalties in succession.
Maestri ended any chance of his side fighting back when he was yellow-carded by referee Nigel Owens in the 71st minute as he lunged at an All Black twice in a ruck.
Replacement Barrett, playing on his home ground, then scored a last-minute try on the counter following some superb work by Smith to stretch out the score.
"I was really impressed with the way the French turned up to play," Carter said.
"They could have easily folded up and thought about their off-season, but they turned up to play and put us under a lot of pressure."
New Zealand – I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith, M Nonu (B Barrett 78), R Ranger (C Piutau 74); D Carter, P Weepu (T Kerr-Barlow 43); W Crockett (T Woodcock 43), A Hore, O Franks, L Romano, Whitelock, V Vito (S Luatua 71), S Cane (M Todd 74), K Read.
France – B Dulin; Y Huget (M Bastareaud 4), F Fritz, W Fofana, M Andreu; R Tales (C Lopez 71, JM Doussain (M Machenaud 59); B Kayser (D Szarzewski 66), T Domingo (E Ben Arous 66), N Mas (L Dulcalcon 66), A Flanquart (S Vahaamahina 59), Y Maestri, T Dusautoir, A Claassen (B Le Roux 71), D Chouly.
REF – N Owens (Wales)