All Blacks thrash inept France
Sportal.co.nz 15 Jun 2013 Getty Images
If there was no greater statement from the match it was the clear message that first five-eighths Aaron Cruden has moved out of the shadow of Dan Carter and has created his own image in the role.
His performance, kicking especially, was out of the top tactical drawer while he supplemented that with some outstanding tackling, especially close to rucks and mauls, and controlling the play around the field.
Around the three-quarter mark he demonstrated to the more experienced French pivot Frederic Michalak what a penalty touch finder should do. With only a metre or two to play with he sent the ball into touch downfield, courtesy of a Michalak touch. The Frenchman had earlier failed to find his touch from a penalty.
Once New Zealand demonstrated their defensive intent with a brilliant display of defiance in the first nine minutes of the second half it was clear the Test series was going to be sewn up with a Test still to play.
France mounted wave after wave of drives at the All Blacks line within five metres of the line, but there was no way through. Then, almost predictably, the frustration resulted in a dropped goal attempt being charged down. New Zealand surged with second five-eighths Nonu leading the way before wing Julian Savea charged onto the ball at full speed to break the defence and feed Ben Smith in for the try.
The dose was repeated four minutes from the end of the game when another sustained period of pressure from France saw turnover ball moved from their own goal-line by the All Blacks. A long pass from Cruden, almost impossibly, found replacement wing Rene Ranger. He bumped off a defender then linked with Conrad Smith, who kicked ahead and the ball bounced for Cruden, who else? and he flicked a backhand pass to replacement Beauden Barrett who raced in for the try.
It spoke volumes of the difference in class between the sides on the night. France could do nothing right.
At one stage France attempted to clear the line only to have Cruden take the high ball untroubled by the big Frenchmen charging at him. His response was a 50m kick down the sideline which leg-spun into touch just out from the line.
New Zealand utilised their kicking game to perfection while nearly every French downfield kick was matched by a failure to follow up, handing control back to the home team.
By comparison, the French failed to achieve pressure through their kicking, several times finding New Zealand's back three of Dagg, wings Ben Smith and Julian Savea perfectly placed to take the ball.
Even Nonu got into the act with two perfectly-placed grubber kicks threading the legs of the defenders to produce one first half try and nearly another.
New Zealand scored after only three minutes.
After a well-placed Cruden bomb was knocked back by Dagg in pursuit, New Zealand had Nonu kick to the corner. From the lineout, lock Sam Whitelock, who was superb in the tight quarter, disrupted the French lineout sufficiently for prop Wyatt Crockett to secure the ball behind him.
The forwards moved the ball right, and then Aaron Smith switched the play left and Nonu slipped a left-footed kick through to the corner where Savea was untroubled to touch down.
When they did get an opportunity to test New Zealand, Michalak attempted a dropped goal which missed.
In the 19th minute, Michalak had his first attempt at a penalty goal from 42m after New Zealand infringed in a lineout.
But the kick hit the upright and was run back at the French by centre Conrad Smith. He found captain and No.8 Kieran Read who ran 40m downfield and never looked like kicking ahead when in space. Aaron Smith was taken out at a ruck, but Whitelock was into a halfback like a flash and fed prop Crockett who got over the advantage line.
Aaron Smith kicked into the corner and fullback Maxime Medard was caught ball and all and the penalty was conceded for Cruden to land the goal.
More kicks deep into French territory provided a chance for Nonu and he made the most of a gap in the 27th minute to break through. Ben Smith was across from the right in support but was held back by Wesley Fofana. However, Nonu found Dagg who was dragged down just short of the line. France were penalised at the five-metre scrum but Cruden's kick was just wide.
France failed to make best use of their clearing kick and Dagg launched a high ball which the French couldn't control, Aaron Smith moved the ball right where Conrad Smith put the kick through forcing Maxime Machenaud to run the ball into touch five metres from the French line.
Just to compound French frustrations, they lost control of a driving maul short of the All Blacks goal-line and the scrum feed was given to New Zealand.
New Zealand 30 (Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett tries; Aaron Cruden 3 con, 3 pen) France 0. HT: 10-0
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