Rene Ranger was among the few highlights in New Zealand’s 23-13 win against France in Auckland.
The All Blacks led 17-10 at half time but France dominated field position for most of the match and enjoyed the greater quality in possession. However they couldn’t translate the advantage in the set phase and at the breakdown into points.
New Zealand defended well in a match of poor quality.
France lead early through Wesley Fofana’s try and it took Ben Smith’s break to start up New Zealand’s international season.
Smith has been the form New Zealand back in Super Rugby and he looked a class above those around him. Ma’a Nonu started poorly but did produce one break to set up the second try and that was as good as it got on attack for the hosts until Rene Ranger’s introduction for Israel Dagg.
Dagg continued his indifferent form and New Zealand looked more dangerous when (Ben) Smith went to fullback and Ranger played on the right wing.
Ranger added impetus to the attack and he again showed the ability to break the first tackle and give the World Champions go forward. Physically he was New Zealand’s most imposing player in attack and it was a Ranger burst that forced a penalty and sealed the match for the All Blacks.
The French coaching staff erred in replacing both their props midway through the second half. France were the stronger in the scrums but the replacement props, among them South African-born Daniel Kotze, struggled.
France captain Thierry Dusautoir missed the tackle on Smith but was very good close to the ruck and Louis Picamoles’s excellent evening will be overshadowed by his dropped pass with the All Blacks tryline just metres away.
The All Blacks were second in physicality in the contact but they produced the individual moments to win the Test.
Cane is a youngster and played like one. He is no Richie McCaw and Aaron Cruden, for all the media hype, will never be Dan Carter.
The All Blacks have been spoiled to have McCaw and Carter for the last decade and without them the All Blacks are currently a good side but not an exceptional one.
France can’t complain about the refereeing of Wayne Barnes, and neither can New Zealand. The difference was New Zealand maximised two line breaks and France did not take the many chances they created through winning the collisions.
The win was the All Blacks 39th in 51 Tests against France.
New Zealand – Tries: Aaron Smith, Sam Cane. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalties: Cruden (3).
France – Try: Wesley Fofana. Conversion: Maxime Machenaud. Penalties: Machenaud, Camille Lopez.