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All Blacks crush France in Lyon

Sportal.co.nz     12 Nov 2006    

In similar circumstances to the All Blacks' 45-6 drubbing of their arch-rival in November 2004, the visitors quickly gained control as they raced away to a bruising 23-3 halftime lead.

Despite the wet conditions making ball-handling hard for both sides, three uncontested tries in the opening term had New Zealand firmly in control as the French defence was caught napping on numerous occasions.

The second half quickly shaped into more of the same and four further tries saw the All Blacks romp home with the demolishing victory, although France had a glut of possession and territory.

The All Blacks got off to a roaring start when powerhouse wing Sitiveni Sivivatu shrugged aside several tackles to charge over the line for a try right on five minutes.

Having matched it with New Zealand early, France was penalised deep inside its own zone for a scrum infringement and the visitors restarted quickly before spinning the ball out wide to the Fijian-born wing.

Shortly after, All Blacks first five-eighths Dan Carter, who missed the earlier conversion attempt, put his side further ahead with a long-range penalty goal after France was pinged for being offside.

This sparked some resurgence from the hosts and the All Blacks were soon on the back foot as they desperately attempted to defend their line in the 14th minute.

However, the New Zealand defence proved up to the challenge and again some French indiscipline saw the hosts' first real scoring chance go begging.

Some probing kicks from home-town first five-eighths Damien Traille had the All Blacks exposed on several occasions in the first half but France continued to struggle to break the line.

Then, in the 20th minute, Carter, from over 50m out and on a tight angle, sent his second penalty attempt wide and the score remained 8-0 in favour of the visitors.

Finally, three minutes later, France responded when centre Florian Fritz slotted over a drop-goal from 30m out to narrow the margin.

France's celebrations, however, were short-lived and soon after skipper Fabien Pelous was singled out by the touch judge for a professional foul in the lineout.

To add insult to the yellow card, Carter made light work of the subsequent penalty to restore his side's eight-point ascendancy.

Reduced to 14 men, France toiled fearlessly against a rampant All Blacks onslaught and had the chance to peg back the visitors' lead in the 30th minute but halfback Dimitri Yachvili's penalty attempt sailed wide.

Finally the cracks began to appear in the French defence and, despite Pelous returning to the field at an opportune time, All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw muscled over late in the half to give his side a strong lead.

However, the All Blacks were far from finished and Carter then capped off a sensational 40 minutes after the siren with an easy try to give his side a 23-3 lead at the break.

A resurgent French outfit came out of the sheds after halftime but a Conrad Smith try against the run of play in the 45th minute put paid to any momentum the hosts had garnered.

Attacking deep inside the All Blacks' half, a handling error from France saw the ball end up in Smith's hands and he raced 70m down the field to dive under the posts untouched.

Any faint hopes France had of matching it with the visitors were then crushed 10 minutes later when speedy wing Joe Rokocoko burrowed over the line on the back of a well-poised pass from Luke McAlister to give his side a 37-3 lead.

In the 65th minute and following a host of changes made by All Blacks coach Graham Henry, France looked set to score after several attacking phases right on the try-line.

However, the visitors again rallied and some strong defence kept the French attack agonisingly at bay.

With eight minutes left in the match and both sides running on empty, Sivivatu, who kick-started the scoring, fittingly looked to have finished it off with a slippery run out wide to dot down in the corner to cap off a fine All Blacks performance.

But much like the first half, the visitors were far from done and several minutes later McAlister, this time running off a pass from Sivivatu, strode over for his side's final try.

All Blacks 47 (Sitiveni Sivivatu 2 tries, Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Joe Rokocoko, Luke McAlister 1 try, Dan Carter 1 try 3 con, 2 pen) France 3 (Florian Fritz 1 dg) HT: 23-3 New Zealand.