Julian Savea scored a hat-trick as the All Blacks clinched a historic 62-13 win over France in Saturday’s quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
It will be the match-up many would have been hoping for: the All Blacks will play the Springboks in next weekend’s semi-final. But for now, let’s celebrate a rugby masterclass that will go down in the annals of World Cup history.
The Boks will have a mountain of work to do if they are to have any hope of emerging victorious against the Kiwis. In fact, some might suggest it will require a miracle for them to progress to the final because as unconvincing as the Springboks may have been against Wales, it was a completely different state of affairs in Cardiff.
New Zealand were classy, clinical and a cut above the rest. Take your pick of adjectives, this is the way rugby should be played and celebrated. A near 50-point victory against a top team in a World Cup quarter-final is some achievement, and one that deserves unending plaudits.
Throughout the pool stage, the All Blacks gave the impression that they were simply in cruise control, but they moved into top gear against France, and the result was as brutal as it was effective.
The world champs made a statement from the outset, with an emphatic start eventually resulting in a penalty that flyhalf Dan Carter duly knocked over in the seventh minute.
Although France drew the scores level with an impressive long-range penalty from Scott Spedding a few minutes later, a decisive moment came soon after as New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick charged down a kick from Fred Michalak to score the first try of the match.
To make matters worse, Michalak pulled a hamstring during his kicking motion and had to limp from the field as the All Blacks opened up a 10-3 lead.
France scrumhalf Morgan Parra knocked over a penalty in the 15th minute to briefly keep matters interesting, but he made a hash of a penalty not long after when a relatively easy goal-kick was sent wide, and the All Blacks would quickly make him pay.
A beautiful piece of handling saw Conrad Smith offload to centre partner Ma’a Nonu, who then shifted the ball on to Nehe Milner-Skudder, with the fleet-footed winger darting infield to go over unopposed as the All Blacks started to take control of proceedings.
Another moment of magic on the half-hour mark featured some brilliance from Carter as he drew the defence and produced an incredible backhand pass to set Savea away for a try as the world champs moved into a 24-6 lead.
France would strike back with a well-worked try to No 8 Louis Picamoles in the 36th minute, but the All Blacks would have the final say in the half when Savea produced a run that was reminiscent of the legendary Jonah Lomu. After a superb up-and-under take from Ben Smith, the ball was put away to Savea on the left wing, who bumped off three defenders to score a try that will undoubtedly be replayed over and over again during tournament highlights.
It was enough to take the All Blacks into a 29-13 lead at half-time, and from there it was always going to be a long way back for Les Bleus.
The result was effectively sealed when Jerome Kaino scored in the 50th minute to open up a 21-point lead just after France had been reduced to 14 men when Picamoles was sent to the sin bin for an act of foul play.
Even when France were restored to a full complement of players, the All Blacks typically created a score out of nothing, with Savea finishing off a sixth try for the reigning champs as he capitalised on yet another turnover.
Kieran Read and Tawera Kerr-Barlow (on two occasions) cantered over before full-time as the Kiwis went beyond the half-century mark in an absolute humiliation for hapless France.
All Blacks – Tries: Brodie Retallick, Julian Savea (3), Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Tawera Kerr-Barlow (2). Conversions: Dan Carter (7). Penalty: Carter.
France – Try: Louis Picamoles. Conversion: Morgan Parra. Penalties: Scott Spedding, Parra.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Brice Dulin, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Subs: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Damien Chouly, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images