Tuesday 24 September 2019

Coles cruciate blow as 'patchy' All Blacks crush France

Dane Coles. Photo: PA
Dane Coles. Photo: PA

Daniel Schofield

New Zealand were once again accused of delivering a "patchy" performance in their 38-18 win over France, but when their patch is 40 minutes of unadulterated brilliance does it really matter?

This is the problem when standards are set so ridiculously high that nothing less than a perfect 80 minutes is deemed acceptable.

France did win the second half 13-7 but that was a few months after the Lord Mayor's show. And what a show it was, Beauden Barrett acting as the puppet master deploying Reiko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams and Damian McKenzie as his marionettes of mayhem.

Five tries were scored through Dane Coles, Waisake Naholo, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty, who had the honour of bringing up New Zealand's 2,000th try in international rugby.

After the feast came the famine. France capitalised upon the concession of 11 second-half penalties by New Zealand as well as 80pc possession, although Naholo's second try gave New Zealand the last word.


Head coach Steve Hansen's chief concerns afterwards revolved around captain Kieran Read and Coles who were both withdrawn injured.

Read is a doubt for Saturday's game against Scotland, a fixture Coles will definitely miss after it was revealed he tore his cruciate ligament when he injured his knee in the first half.

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In contrast to the F-bomb dropping, notebook thrashing anger of Eddie Jones, Hansen rated his frustration levels at 5/10, citing the absence of more than 300 Test caps worth of experience, including four members of their leadership group.

"It is very difficult for any team to hold the momentum for the whole duration of the contest," Hansen said.

"Once we lost momentum, the French team gained confidence and put us under pressure. I know it is going to happen because the team we have got at the moment, we are missing a lot of people.

"You have to replace experience with inexperience. As coaches we have to be patient and making sure on game day we don't get too frustrated. We scored five tries so that's not too bad a day at the office."

Williams was yellow-carded for deliberately batting fly-half Antoine Belleau's crossfield kick out of the deadball area. It was an act of stupidity which also resulted in a penalty try and a further penalty while he was in the sin-bin.

"The Sonny one he doesn't know the rules because he was playing league," Hansen said. "It was a good lesson for Sonny. He'll know next time to catch it rather than hit it over the line."

© Daily Telegraph, London.


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