Sportal.co.nz 13.Jun.2009Getty Images
Down 11-17 at halftime, the home team fought back to tie the scores at 17-17 but it conceded a penalty goal, and then a 70th minute intercept try when replacement second five-eighths Luke McAlister fed the ball to lurking French fullback Maxime Medard which put paid to the comeback when Medard streaked 50m to score.
Refusing to be bowed, captain and fullback, Mils Muliaina found a gap close to the line and from the ruck the ball was moved left for second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu went over in the corner to bring the score back to 27-22.
But in the end the All Blacks paid the price for an indifferent first half, and poor defence as the French claimed their fourth win on New Zealand soil.
Meanwhile, the French showed outstanding determination in its defensive play and gaps were few for the All Blacks all night.
Its captain, flanker Thierry Dusautoir led the way with an inspired display, backing his great tackling effort in the World Cup quarter-final win over the All Blacks by making 16 tackles in the game with Biarritz prop Fabien Barcella making 15 tackles.
The All Blacks showed all the signs associated with unfamiliar combinations, making mistakes in judgment and execution when placed under pressure by a French side which put its size and power to good use in a game of much movement.
When the French applied early pressure through some strong mauling play it appeared the less bulky home forwards were in for a tough night, but that was an early ruse as the French looked to move the ball through its backline which was well fed by halfback Julien Dupuy on debut, and controlled by first five-eighths Francois Trinh-Duc, who scored one fine try.
New Zealand's defences were leaky, again a reflection of the first Test blues.
The All Blacks first try, in response to the two scored by France, came when halfback Jimmy Cowan placed a superb chip over a maul from a restart after first five-eighths Stephen Donald landed his second penalty goal.
The ball bounced perfectly for wing Cory Jane who beat the immediate French cover, and then ran infield to create room for No.8 Liam Messam to position himself on his outside, and then when corned, Jane flicked him the perfect pass for the try.
Earlier, France punished some weak All Blacks tackling in the 17th minute when halfback Julien Dupuy flicked a short, backhand pass to first five eighths Francois Trinh-Duc who burst his way past fullback Mils Muliaina and Messam and through for what was an easy try.
It was a reflection of a lack of patience seen several times during the first quarter when pushed passes caught players unaware resulting in handling errors which allowed the French to apply more pressure.
Turnovers were also costly for New Zealand with the French dominating that area with ease. Donald attempted to drive the French back with big kicks, but they were non-plussed and were quick to turn the ball back.
New Zealand lost hooker Andrew Hore after only 15 minutes when he suffered a rib cartilage injury and he was replaced by Keven Mealamu.
More counter attack from the French when No.8 Louis Picamoes fielded a kick from Messam and set in train a play which saw the ball moved back to the left through the backline before the breakdown on the line resulted in hooker William Servat to charge over for a second try. Dupuy again added the conversion.
Scrummaging was a problem through the early stages with both teams penalised for early engagements.
France 27 (Francois Trinh-Duc, William Servat, Maxime Medard tries: Julien Dupuy 3 con, 2 pen) New Zealand 22 (Liam Messam, Ma'a Nonu tries; Stephen Donald 4pen)HT: 17-11