Date: 24th September 2011
In the end France had no answer to the black wave that engulfed them.
The All Blacks 37-17 win was as impressive as it was complete as they unleashed four years of pent up frustration to put their World Cup rivals on notice.
“This is our house,” might have been the sentiment of the hosts after turning their Auckland’s fortress into a playground for backs like Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Sonny Bill Williams.
They ran in five tries to two to end any debate about which side of the draw they will now follow and fittingly honour captain Richie McCaw’s 100th match.
This was not so much revenge for what happened in Cardiff as confirmation that All Blacks are on the right track and that France will likely meet England in their quarterfinal.
It seemed symbolic that Dagg confirmed his pedigree at the highest level, stepping snuggly into Mils Muliaina’s shoes.
It was not so much the two tries Dagg scored, as the assured way in which he defused bombs and saved the day when Dimitri Yachvili’s early drop goal hit the post.
In between times he ran with youthful intent, part of a back three that repaid the selector’s faith.
There was a brutal intent in the way the All Blacks soaked up early French pressure, then calmly turned the screws in the other direction. The way they rode out lulls during both halves to reassert field position and take points.
Dan Carter’s late drop goal springs to mind, coming moments after he had punted the All Blacks 65 metres to the opposition goal line despite a healthy 29-10 lead.
Helter-skelter played second-fiddle to structure and coach Graham Henry will have smiled at the fact all three first half tries, were constructed from Sam Whitelock lineout wins.
It was a finals footy template marred only by a loose Carter pass that gifted Maxime Mermoz a second half intercept and a leg injury that saw No 8 Adam Thomson limp off with nine minutes to play.
Those who thought France would not be interested were wrong and they threw plenty into the first 10 minutes and were still pushing when replacmenet Francois Trinh-Duc scored with a few minutes to play.
But they simply couldn’t match the All Blacks’ physicality, particularly at the breakdown, where Thomson picked his moments well in the first half.
One tackle the All Blacks would commit nobody, then the next there would be two and three men piling in to win turnovers or penalties from referee Alain Rolland.
McCaw and Jerome Kaino ran hard, Brad Thorn and Keven Mealamu put their shoulders into their work and Piri Weepu sniped away behind the scrum.
The result was effectively decided after 21 minutes with tries to Thomson, Jane and Dagg clocking up a 19-0 lead.
All three came from Whitelock lineout wins, and the ability of the backs to manipulate their opposites.
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