Thursday 20 June 2019

Humiliation for French flops as All Blacks run in nine tries

New Zealand 62 France 13

France’s Louis Picamoles and New Zealand’s Ben Smith battle for the ball in the air after the restart during last night’s World Cup quarter-final in Cardiff
France’s Louis Picamoles and New Zealand’s Ben Smith battle for the ball in the air after the restart during last night’s World Cup quarter-final in Cardiff
France's Thierry Dusautoir stands dejected after the final whistle
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu celebrate at the end of the match
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

It's a fair bet that the many neutrals in the full house at the Millennium Stadium last night came in hope of seeing something similar to what unfolded at the same venue in 2007. They even showed a clip of it on the big screen in the minutes before the teams took the field. If ever you wanted to see a text-book case of a team losing the plot, it was the All Blacks in the last 10 minutes that night.

This time around they were well sorted by the time we got to the final straight. Indeed by the half-time break they looked uncatchable. The last kick of the half saw Dan Carter, who has never looked more composed, missing the conversion from wide out to Julian Savea's second try.

If the score hadn't been 29-13 at the time then it might have offered France a life raft in stormy waters. Rather they were already adrift by that stage, despite having played their part in what was a really enjoyable spectacle.

The difference was that with France it was individual flashes here and there: a super fetch in the air by Noa Nakataici; the willingness of Scott Spedding or the brute strength of Louis Picamoles. The All Blacks on the other hand were in a different class. They have the individuals for sure, but also they have a system that looks effortless and simple to execute. In a way it is, but their skills in everything from passing the ball out in front of the receiver to the accuracy of their cleanout was a joy to watch.

When all the moving parts are in sync like this it truly is a beautiful game. As for the individuals, well Carter looked as good as he did when he was well settled and half-way through a career that reached 110 caps here. Then there was the finishing power of Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder, and the all round skill and athleticism of Ben Smith who manages so much more power than his 96kg frame suggests.

His fetch in the air for Savea's second try, just before the break - he broke three tackles in Lomuesque fashion - was worth replaying over and again.

France's problems went up a few notches, ironically at a time when they were playing their best rugby of the tournament. Their frst five minutes of the second half were really good, only for a minor dust up to develop in which Picamoles was binned for sticking his fist in the face of Richie McCaw, whose blatant side entry at a maul kicked it off, and should have got him a card as well.

Naturally enough the All Blacks took full measure of the extra man advantage. Picamoles was barely settled in the bin when Jerome Kaino was on the end of a move that had started with New Zealand doing the simple thing, and getting territory. Once there you had a fair idea of how it would finish up.

By the close of business, man of the match Savea had put his name on three of his teams' nine tries and New Zealand were already thinking about another World Cup semi-final. Having beaten South Africa on eight of the last 10 occasions they met, you can figure how the odds will stack up in Twickenham on Saturday - especially given the number of strings to the All Blacks' bow compared to the blunt instrument employed by Heyneke Meyer's Springboks.

Their only injury concern on the night concerned Milner-Skudder, who didn't appear for the second half because of a shoulder issue. It wasn't like they missed him. That said, he'd be worth having fit for Saturday. After this hugely impressive World Cup win over their old pals, the Kiwis are looking good.

Scorers - New Zealand: Savea 3 tries, Kerr-Barlow 2 tries, Retallick, Milner-Skudder, Kaino, Read try each; Carter pen, 7 cons; France: Picamoles try; Parra pen, con, Spedding pen)

New Zealand: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder (B Barrett ht), C Smith (SB Williams 52), M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith (T Kerr Barlow 67); W Crockett, D Coles (K Mealamu 62), O Franks (C Faumuina 52), B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, K Read, R McCaw (capt)(S Cane 73)

France: S Spedding; N Nakataici, A Dumoulin (M Bastareaud 61), W Fofana, B Dulin; F Michalak (R Tales 13), M Parra (R Kockott 73); E Ben Arrous (V Debaty 62), G Guirado (D Szarzewski 57), R Slimani (N Mas 62), P Pape (Y Nyanga 48), Y Maestri, T Dusatoir (capt), L Picamoles (yc 48-58)(D Chouly 73), B Le Roux

Referee: N Owens (Wales)

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