Sportal.co.nz 23.Oct.2011Getty Images
French captain Thierry Dusautoir and his ever present lieutenant Imanol Haridordoquy were immense in denying New Zealand the lifeblood ball it so desired to get out of its own half.
But a vital break came and New Zealand crawled their way towards halfway in a controlled piece of forward play and won a vital penalty with a minute to play. It broke the back of the spirited French effort and by securing the ball New Zealand set the scene for one of its players of the game No.8 Kieran Read to secure the ball at the lineout and set up a drive which resulted in a penalty to secure the game.
Having lost key stalwarts like first five-eighths Dan Carter and fullback Mils Muliaina, New Zealand finished the game with their fourth-choice five-eighths Stephen Donald on the field after Aaron Cruden joined Carter and his deputy Colin Slade on the injured bench.
Conditions were perfect with no wind in front of a crowd of more than 60,000.
After 24 years without the Cup, New Zealand had little chance to put their destructive backline to use and it all came down to basic forward play to secure the victory.
France set the scene by challenging the haka, walking from their designated position on the 10m line in arrowhead formation to halfway – the only time any team has broken the IRB ruling on dealing with the haka.
France attempted to run the ball at New Zealand but the constant probing found no openings and it was a superb piece of play that saw the All Blacks score first. Halfback Piri Weepu, who had earlier missed a penalty goal attempt, won a penalty from a French lineout.
French flanker Thierry Dusautoir took the long throw but was tackled by No.8 Kieran Read and Weepu was prevented from claiming the ball. His penalty kick took New Zealand to within five metres of the French line.
New Zealand threw to flanker Jerome Kaino and after the front half of the lineout moved forward a huge gap was created through which prop Tony Woodcock ambled over the line for the try.
Weepu missed the conversion and another penalty goal attempt but his kicking over the top from rucks was pinpoint and kept France pinned in their half for long periods.
New Zealand suffered a blow when first five-eighths Aaron Cruden was forced to leave the field with a knee injury in the 33rd minute. He was replaced by Stephen Donald. France had earlier lost their first five-eighths Morgan Parra when he appeared to suffer from concussion.
Read was prominent, often standing in midfield to receive the ball and bullock his way through in midfield, with Dusautoir taking a similar role for France.
Trinh-duc replaced Parra and made a hash of an early dropped goal attempt but ran back a Donald kick to the deep and he was halted from his opportunity by a flying ankle tap from McCaw.
Donald opened the scoring in the second half with a penalty goal in the 44th minute but France struck back when New Zealand lost the ball in a turnover as Dagg attempted to bring the ball forward. The French took some moments to work out their options and it wasn't until centre Aurelien Rougerie straightened the attack and set up the chance for Dusautoir to scoop up the ball and score by the posts. Trinh-Duc added the conversion.
As expected the French took heart and their confidence lifted, especially in shutting down All Blacks attempts to break through. A turnover on an All Blacks throw to a lineout also highlighted the issues for the home team attempting to regain the initiative.
France, in the 64th minute produced their best scrum of the night to win a penalty, one metre in New Zealand's half but Trinh-Duc was unable to convert.
France held the ball and gave New Zealand no chance to get the ball out of their own half, but at the same time the home defence was solid and unrelenting and in the end that defensive play was vital to the victory.
France 7 (Thierry Dusautoir try; Francois Trinh-Duc con) New Zealand 8 ( Tony Woodcock try; Stephen Donald pen ). HT: 0-5