The reigning champions pack proved too strong for a gallant New Zealand in atrocious conditions.
France led 21-0 at halftime. New Zealand dominated the scrum and reduced the frustrated French to 13 in the second half with tenacious determination, but a sluggish start damaged any realistic prospects of winning the match.
The French rolling maul was assertive and accurate and effectively created all three first-half tries. Left wing Théo Attissogbe scored on the right side after New Zealand was enveloped tightly leaving an abundance of vacant space.
Lock Posolo Tuilagi took a less subtle route over the whitewash and halfback Baptiste Jauneau darted over after more constructive forward play.
Jauneau in the ‘Pink Batts’ headgear peppered New Zealand with challenging box kicks and was combative with his bustling carries.
Following a second try to the beastly Tuilagi, New Zealand was behind 28-0 and could have imploded. Instead, greater continuity was discovered, and the New Zealand scrum turned up the heat. In the 57th minute, perseverance paid with a penalty try.
A short while later France conceded again when openside Peter Lakai barged through two tacklers from close range.
It was a case of too little too late, however. France were worthy victors and always looked capable of taking the game to another level. Brent Liufau had the last say with a showcase of brute force after sustained phases.
For New Zealand, tighthead Siale Lauaki was busy and resolute. Lock Taylor Cahill was spirited and Lakai battled gamely. Reserve hooker Ray Tuputupu will push hard for a start in New Zealand’s final group match against Japan at 2am NZT on Wednesday.
France 35 (Posolo Tuilagi 2, Théo Attissogbe, Baptiste Jauneau, Brent Liufau tries, Hugo Reus 5 con) New Zealand 14 (Penalty try, Peter Lakai, Taha Kemara con) HT: 21-0