New Zealand remain unbeaten in 2013 after beating France 26-19 in Paris.
The teams were level at half-time, 9-9, and while New Zealand, on balance, deserved the win, they had to withstand a fired-up French attack in the final five minutes to get the win.
The All Blacks scored two second-half tries to lead 26-12 with 15 minutes to go but the French refused to go away and scored after a sustained attack to make it a one-score match with just 10 minutes to go.
It was all France in the last 10 minutes. They had the momentum, they enjoyed the rub of the green and referee Jaco Peyper seemed to agree with everything the French did in this period.
Ultimately it was not enough.
The French, 5 metres from the All Blacks tryline, were awarded a penalty with a minute to go and opted for the scrum, which had been the more dominant. It was a risky decision, but their lineout had been erratic and their backs hadn't posed a threat.
The scrum was their weapon but in the most crucial moment, New Zealand's scrum stood firm and Wyatt Crockett, the replacement loosehead, won New Zealand the penalty that closed out the game.
It was New Zealand's fourth successive win against France in 2013 and France will have to wait another year to add to their 11 wins in 55 attempts against the All Blacks.
Dan Carter kicked four penalties from four attempts but was surprisingly replaced by Aaron Cruden in the 52nd minute. Cruden missed an easy penalty first up but did add two conversions. Outside of this he didn't add any impact.
Left wing Charles Piutau was the pick of the All Blacks backs and McCaw and Liam Messam worked hard against a very good French forward unit.
The French backs, however, lacked impact and the difference between the two sides was New Zealand's ability to play the big points befitting of a team that came first in the World Cup final – and not second.
France, well, they played those big points as a team that came second in 2011 and has come second four times against New Zealand in 2013.
France – Try: Brice Dulin. Conversion: Morgan Parra. Penalties: Parra (4).
All Blacks – Tries: Charles Piutau, Kieran Read. Conversions: Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Carter (4).
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Maxime Médard 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Subs: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Gael Fickou.
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP Photo
Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel always backs himself to have a go, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Bismarck back to brilliant best
Bismarck du Plessis provided the good-news story for South African rugby this past weekend, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day newspaper.
What we’ve learned
Five lessons from the 15th round of Vodacom Super Rugby, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.