Epic try still vivid
Auckland - France play New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park on Sunday, a ground where the All Blacks last tasted defeat on July 3, 1994, after Les Bleus snatched a win in the final minute with a memorable try.
Dubbed the "try from the end of the world", France full-back Jean-Luc Sadourny finished off a quite brilliant 30 seconds of action, the ball travelling 85 metres, passed seven times and touched by nine players.
France's scrum-half that day was Guy Accoceberry, who gave the final pass to Sadourny to cross in the lefthand corner for a famous 23-20 victory to follow up a 22-8 first Test win over the All Blacks in Christchurch.
"I remember it as if it was yesterday," Accoceberry said of a score that sealed France's only Test series win over New Zealand.
"The speed of it, the perfect execution, everyone did what they had to at exactly the right moment," he added of a try that has since been replayed countless times on television and attracted thousands of YouTube 'hits'.
Very few people in the ground that day saw the try coming, but New Zealand coach Laurie Mains was fearful.
"There was a little unease because once again we hadn't kicked our goals, meaning the French were still within striking range," he recalled in a 1996 biography, written by Bob Howitt and Robin McConnell.
"And that can be fatal with the French, as they demonstrated by scoring one of rugby's most spectacular tries in the final minute...a try from the end of the world, as their captain Philippe Saint-Andre described it.
"Until that moment we had never looked like losing."
The French breakaway from their own 22m area followed crossed words between Sadourny and Saint-Andre, who will succeed Marc Lievremont as France coach after Sunday's final.
"Just before the action, there was the same All Blacks kick into our 22m area. Sadourny collected the ball, hesitated and then kicked it into touch," Accoceberry said.
"From his wing, Saint-Andre screamed: 'Jean-Luc, we have to play the ball, there's only two minutes left'."
Moments later, a similar kick was drilled into the same corner of the French 22m area.
"Philippe picked the ball up, there was a moment of hesitation, but because of what he'd said to Sadourny, he had to run it back.
"Off Philippe went, he made 25-30 metres and then, like a musical score, everything fell into place. A super-quick play-the-ball at the ruck and 'Gonzo' (hooker Jean-Michel Gonzalez) arrived before me at the ruck and passed to fly-half Christophe Deylaud.
"Christophe passed on to Abdel (Benazzi), who took it on and offloaded to Emile (Ntamack), an instinctive player who dropped off Laurent (Cabannes).
"I thought another cut was on the cards, and sure enough Cabannes offloaded to Yann Delaigue, who cut back across into the 22m area.
"I came up alongside Yann, who saw me and passed, with the whitewash beckoning. But the final 20 metres after a seven-week tour proved too much and I could see a trio of All Blacks hunting me down.
"I passed to Jean-Luc and there was the try."