The All Blacks moved up a gear in the second half to beat France 24-19 in Paris on Saturday.
The All Blacks – through 2016 World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett – conjured up some magic early in the first half. A pinpoint cross-kick found winger Julian Savea, who in turn found Israel Dagg running a great supporting line. Barrett kicked the conversion and a subsequent penalty to take the visitors out to a 10-0 lead after 17 minutes.
France fought their way back into the contest. They hammered into the collisions, and competed fiercely at the breakdowns. Maxime Machenaud kicked two penalties to see the hosts trailing New Zealand by 10-6 at the break.
Again, it was a sublime piece of vision and skill that swung the momentum in the All Blacks' favour. France looked to be closing in for a try until Barrett shot up on defence, snatched an intercept, and ran 80-odd metres to score. The subsequent conversion boosted the visitors into a 17-6 lead.
Baptiste Serin kicked a third penalty goal for France. It was never going to be enough, though, against an All Blacks side renowned for its ability to up the ante in the second stanza.
Charlie Faumuina crashed over the tryline in the 56th minute to put his side in a commanding position. France hit back, first through a Louis Picamole try and then through a conversion and penalty by Serin.
But it was the All Blacks who showed greater composure in the closing stages. They hung on to the ball, and ensured that they spent the last few minutes of the contest deep in French territory.
The result ensured that the All Blacks finished their tour to Europe with a perfect three-from-three record. Overall, the All Blacks have won 13 of their 14 Tests in 2016.
France – Try: Louis Picamoles. Conversion: Baptiste Serin. Penalties: Maxime Machenaud (2), Serin (2).
All Blacks – Tries: Israel Dagg, Beauden Barrett, Charlie Faumuina. Conversions: Barrett (3). Penalty: Barrett.
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Gaël Fickou.
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images