Big 2nd half lifts NZ to 49-14 win over France in 3rd test
DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — Damian McKenzie shrugged off his contentious selection at flyhalf to score two tries, including a disputed first-half effort, as New Zealand beat France 49-14 in the third rugby test on Saturday to sweep the series 3-0.
Wing Rieko Ioane added a second half hat trick as New Zealand ran away with the match and series by scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half.
McKenzie is a specialist fullback who the All Black selectors have decided to make into a back-up to regular flyhalf Beauden. He was handed a start in the No. 10 jersey Saturday because Barrett was absent with a head injury and he made a strong impression, scoring a try in each half and kicking seven conversions for 24 points.
A fortunate first-half try gave New Zealand a 21-14 lead at halftime. McKenzie dashed through a hole in the defense created when Irish referee John Lacey impeded France scrumhalf Baptiste Serin.
The incident formed part of a starring role by tryscorer Serin, who took the field as an eighth-minute replacement for Morgan Parra when Parra failed a head injury assessment.
France lost the first two tests, going down 52-11 in the first and 26-13 in the second. Both of those defeats hinged on poor refereeing decisions; a yellow card in the first test which saw the French crumble after holding the All Blacks to 11-11 after 50 minutes and a red card in the second which cost them a match they should have won.
They were able to paint themselves unlucky again on Saturday when the referee's collision with Serin created a 32nd-minute try for the All Blacks which turned the tide of the match.
France was the better team for most of the first half, going ahead 7-0 with a try to Serin after 12 minutes during which they had almost uninterrupted possession.
They fell behind 14-7 after conceding tries to fullback Ben Smith and replacement flanker Matt Todd but drew level again with a try to center Wesley Fofana.
France seemed to have the All Blacks defense still under pressure until McKenzie's try swung momentum in the home team's favor.
The All Blacks had an attacking scrum which was solid and from which scrumhalf Aaron Smith moved the ball swiftly to McKenzie, who darted through a wide gap in the defense.
Despite France's protests it was unlikely Serin would have stopped the try as the defense was already under-manned and he was marking his opposite.
"We worked pretty hard that first 10 minutes. I'd hate to know how many tackles we made," All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock said. "The boys trusted the system and we were able to put in some good tackles.
"We had a really good plan over the last couple of weeks and the plan really worked. Now we have to keep getting better and who knows where it will lead."
France's morale flagged after McKenzie's try and it conceded four more tries in a one-sided second half.
The first of those tries went to McKenzie and the last three to Ioane who became a constant threat out wide.
The win was a triumph for a young All Blacks side which contained four new caps, all of whom made their presence felt. Flanker Shannon Frizell had a try on debut wrongly disallowed in the second half and lock Jackson Hemopo, on the field for less than a minute, provided an assist in the first-half try to Todd.
Jack Goodhue made a strong debut at center and Richie Mo'unga came off the bench late to replace McKenzie at flyhalf.