Rieko Ioane scored a second-half hat-trick of tries as the All Blacks claimed a resounding 49-14 win over France in Dunedin on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
This contest followed a similar script to the first two Tests of the series: a competitive start from France, a controversial refereeing decision, and ultimately a comfortable win for the All Blacks.
After half an hour of play, the scores were deadlocked at 14-14, but from there the hosts scored 35 unanswered points to emphatically wrap up a 3-0 series win.
The first half of this clash had been a highly-competitive affair, but it would be the All Blacks who took a handy 21-14 lead into the break after outscoring their opponents three tries to two.
However, the enthralling action on the field was again blighted by a poor refereeing decision, this time from John Lacey, who clearly impeded a French defender in the lead-up to the All Blacks’ important third try.
Despite reviewing the incident on the big screen, Lacey bizarrely decided that there was no significant interference, and allowed Damian McKenzie’s try to stand.
On the balance of play in the opening stanza, the All Blacks would have known they were extremely fortunate to take a seven-point lead into the interval, but after the restart, they turned on the style for McKenzie and Ioane to score two beautifully-worked tries.
That double strike suddenly sent the All Blacks surging into a 35-14 lead, while on either side of the hour mark, Ioane wrapped up his hat-trick of tries to pile on the second-half punishment for France.
In his first Test start at flyhalf, McKenzie finished with a personal haul of 24 points, while the All Blacks ultimately sent out a reminder of their enduring class and squad depth.
All Blacks – Tries: Ben Smith, Matt Todd, Damian McKenzie (2), Rieko Ioane (3). Conversions: Damian McKenzie (7).
France – Tries: Baptiste Serin, Wesley Fofana. Conversions: Anthony Belleau (2).
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock (c), 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Jordie Barrett.
France – 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Morgan Parra (c), 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Kelian Galletier, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Dany Priso.
Subs: 16 Adrien Pelissie, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Maxime Medard.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images