Paris - World
player of the year Beauden Barrett helped stretch New Zealand's winning
streak over France to 10 games with a hard-fought but ultimately
comfortable 24-19 victory on Saturday.
The victory rounded off an incredible year for the All Blacks, the
team having notched up 13 wins in 14 matches as well as taking the Rugby
Championship title with two rounds to play, and also equalling the
record unbeaten streak of 18 games, started in 2015.
The sole hiccup came at Irish hands in Chicago when they went down 40-29.
But having avenged that defeat with a 21-9 win in Dublin, it was back to business at a packed Stade de France.
The last time these two teams met, it was embarassing, France going
down 62-13 in the quarter-finals of last year's Rugby World Cup.
But the visitors were made to work for victory this time, Barrett
scoring an intercept try and converting that and two other tries by
Israel Dagg and Charlie Faumuina, as well as booting one penalty.
France's points came from a Louis Picamoles try, converted by
Baptiste Serin, whose two penalties matched those of Maxime Machenaud.
France dominated the opening exchanges, Lopez spurning a sixth minute
shot at the posts for an attacking line-out after a great Virimi
But it came to nothing as the All Blacks shut down their defence. And
then, with their first chance of the game, Barrett cross-kicked to
Julian Savea, who passed inside to Dagg for an outstanding try.
Kevin Gourdon again proved the link man as France came back up the
field, Lopez bundled into touch by Waisake Naholo just five metres from
the New Zealand tryline.
Barrett extended the visitors' lead with a penalty, cancelled out by Machenaud.
Vakatawa was freed up for another run down his left wing, the
Fijian-born sevens specialist steaming into the All Black 22m area
before popping up an offload to Wesley Fofana, the centre, under
pressure, unable to hold on for what was the home side's best
When Naholo was caught in possession with Charles Ollivon breathing
down his neck, referee Wayne Barnes had not option but to award a
penalty, Machenaud making no mistake with his second effort to leave it
finely poised at 10-6 at half-time.
France opened the second period on the front foot, Gourdan firing his side deep in New Zealand territory.
But one hit-up too many and a decision to play the blindside against a
charging All Black defence saw Barrett intercept Lopez's pass and
sprint 90 metres for a try he also converted.
Replacement scrum-half Serin booted his first penalty as France, led
by New Zealand-born prop Uini Atonio and Sebastien Vahaamahina,
continued to threaten with ball in hand.
But it was another tighthead who was next on the scoreboard, Faumuina
driving over after Barrett opted against a penalty and took the touch
to attack through the line-out.
France skipper Guilhem Guirado then fell centimetres short of the
line, but the home side finally scored a try after Serin broke and
produced a delightful back-of-the-hand offload for Picamoles, the No 8
With 10 minutes to play, New Zealand again turned down a kickable
penalty, opting for a scrum in the French 22m area. But that came to
nothing, France taking no such option when they had a chance, Serin
slotting his second penalty to bring the home side within five points
with three minutes to play.
The All Blacks did not panic, however, and saw out time until the
final whistle to round off a sterling year for the world's best team.
Penalties: Machenaud (2), Serin (2)
Tries: Dagg, Barrett, Faumuina
Conversions: Barrett (3)
15 Brice Dulin, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Remi 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 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Xavier Chiocci
Substitutes: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyrille Baille, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Gael Fickou
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 (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Rieko Ioane