New Zealand clinched the series against France with a comprehensive 30-0 win in Christchurch, reports SIMON BORCHARDT.
It was the first time France had been kept scoreless by New Zealand in a Test and the first time in any Test since 1990, against Scotland.
The world champions stepped up a gear following their unimpressive 23-13 win in Auckland last weekend. They were threatening with ball in hand, committed on defence (most notably early in the second half) and Aaron Cruden delivered an excellent tactical-kicking performance that kept France pinned inside their territory for most of the match.
The All Blacks struck early when they stole a French lineout and Ma’a Nonu kicked a left-footed grubber that was picked up by Julian Savea.
Frédéric Michalak missed with a drop goal and then a penalty that came off the upright, and with no Frenchman bothering to chase the kick, Kieran Read was able to counter-attack. The All Blacks captain, playing in his 50th Test, brushed off four tackles during a storming run that ultimately resulted in three points for Aaron Cruden at the other end.
Cruden missed the target a few minutes later, after France had been penalised at a 5m scrum, although the visitors were lucky not to have been reduced to 14 men a minute earlier when Florian Fritz held back Ben Smith following a break by Nonu.
France finished the first half strongly, and threw everything they had at the All Blacks early in the second. For a full five minutes, and 20-plus phases, the French forwards bashed away at the tryline, but outstanding defence from the hosts slowly forced them back towards the 22m line. That saw Michalak go for a desperate drop goal, which was charged down and then knocked on by the French flyhalf. The referee played advantage and the All Blacks got the ball out wide to Savea, who put Ben Smith away for one of the best all-round tries you’ll ever see.
Cruden kicked the conversion and then added two penalties to make it 23-0.
Beauden Barrett then completed the rout with a 76th-minute try that began 5m from the All Blacks line with a long pass from Cruden to Rene Ranger. He passed in the tackle to Conrad Smith, who kicked ahead, with Cruden getting to the ball first and putting Barrett away.
All Blacks – Tries: Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (3). Penalties: Cruden (3).
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Rene Ranger.
France – 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Adrien Planté, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Subs: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Brice Dulin, 22 Remi Tales, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Photo: Hannah Johnston/Getty Images
Super Rugby preview: Cheetahs
The Cheetahs could struggle again in this year's tournament after a mass exodus of players.
Super Rugby preview: Sharks
The Sharks want to play more attacking rugby during the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Super Rugby preview: Bulls
The Vodacom Bulls will still be in a transition phase in 2015 but should improve on last year's campaign.