New Zealand wins 28-23 to continue stranglehold over France
LYON, France (AP) — New Zealand continued its stranglehold over France with a hard-fought 28-23 away win on Tuesday.
Although the match did not hold test match status, it was effectively a 12th straight success over the French and followed Saturday's 38-18 test win. France has not beaten the All Blacks since an away win in 2009 and not at home since 2000.
"You're always disappointed when you lose like this. New Zealand was a level above us technically," France coach Guy Noves said. "I'm happy with what he showed tonight. All the lads are spent. We knew it would be a very hard game."
Flanker Liam Squire and uncapped right winger Matt Duffie scored tries as the All Blacks twice led in the first half.
But right winger Gabriel Lacroix, one of six uncapped players in the France side, scored two of his own as Les Bleus led 15-14 at halftime.
"We all fought for each other out there," Lacroix said. "We have mixed feelings. We didn't win, but it was an encouraging performance."
New Zealand stepped it up after the break, with Patrick Tuipulotu and center Ngani Laumape showing great strength on their tries.
With a little more than 10 minutes left, the home side was given a lifeline when New Zealand center Jack Goodhue was sinbinned for a cynical tackle off the ball as France attacked near the line.
France made the extra man count as flanker Sekou Macalou made a brilliant run down the left and, after he was just tackled just near the line, center Henry Chavancy picked up the loose ball and touched down.
Plisson missed the conversion, leaving New Zealand five points ahead with six minutes to go.
Coach Steve Hansen's side held out in the closing moments.
"There were periods where the French got momentum and they defended their hearts out," Hansen said. "All in all mission accomplished."
Since winning the Rugby World Cup two years ago, New Zealand has lost only three tests and drawn one.
Hansen's team also featured new players and a captain — No. 8 Luke Whitelock — with only one test cap.
Still, France did have experience with flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc (61 caps) and lock Yoann Maestri (59).
Following a bright French start, the All Blacks hit back.
France center Jonathan Danty burst through but dropped the ball close to the 22 (meter line), and from the ensuing break Squire scored and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga converted.
France responded well, with Trinh-Duc bypassing the All Blacks defense with a fine pass to find fullback Scott Spedding, who then fed Lacroix down the right. Trinh-Duc's extras made it 7-7.
Shortly after, No. 8 Marco Tauleigne had to go off after a heavy frontal hit from Tuipulotu.
The All Blacks proved clinical again just after the midway point of the half.
Following a quickly-taken penalty, fullback David Havili stood up Spedding and fed Duffie for a try.
Then, Lacroix intercepted Laumape's pass and sprinted home from 80 meters out. Trinh-Duc's conversion attempt from wide right hit the post, but his penalty soon after put France 15-14 ahead.
New Zealand came out fired up and Squire almost set up hooker Nathan Harris near the line with a pass out of the back of his hand when on the ground, but the try was ruled out.
But by now the All Blacks were cutting through the French defense and Tuipulotu broke two tackles to score under the posts for a converted try.
Minutes later, Laumape shrugged off a tackle and then held off three other players to score under the posts, with replacement flyhalf Richie Mo'unga converting it.
A 40-meter penalty from Jules Plisson reduced the arrears to 28-18.