Sportal.co.nz 10.Nov.2013Getty Images
While he scored New Zealand's first try in the 45th minute to break what had been a penalty goal deadlock, it was his magnificent back-of-hand pass to No.8 Kieran Read to see him in for the second try in the 65th minute that was more crucial.
It took New Zealand to a 26-12 lead and while it was the attacking spirit that Piutau infused into the side, he was also superb in his defensive play making some hard tackles on French attackers.
Piutau showed the benefit of the nurturing process the All Blacks management have employed and has given the side enhanced strength in the three-quarters.
A much more competitive France side than that which toured New Zealand for three Tests in June responded to Read's try with their first of the game to fullback Brice Dulin after a concentrated build-up which finally opened up the All Blacks' defences.
There was a great finish to the game as France were held up over the line by some slick work from replacement halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and in attempting to force the advantage France infringed at a five-metre scrum and New Zealand's defence could finally rest after a demanding scrutiny.
France impressed early with their unity and competitiveness and twice applied pressure to the All Blacks defences in the first half without being able to cross the line.
Loose forwards Thierry Dusautoir, Wenceslas Lauret and Damien Chouly had big games for France and their efforts were much by hard-running first five-eighths Remi Tales, who was strong all game, along with second five-eighths Wesley Fofana, who was a constant threat.
From the first scrum, New Zealand moved the ball with second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu making the break and setting up the ruck which produced quick ball for wing Cory Jane to make his return to the side by diving spectacularly at the corner only to just drop the ball before the grounding.
Penalty goals were exchanged with France's halfback Morgan Parra opening the scoring in the eighth, 24th and 30th minutes and first five-eighths Dan Carter in the 11th, 18th and 26th minutes.
Failure to clear the ball from a French re-start resulted in halfback Aaron Smith having a kick charged down allowing France a period of sustained assault in the All Blacks' 22m area and while the defence was impressive a penalty was conceded and Parra drew the scores level at 9-9 with his goal.
Parra had a chance to reward an immediate return to the All Blacks' 22m after Chouly made space to feed flying Fofana to break deep into the 22m area to again test the defensive structures. However, the French couldn't penetrate and had a chance from a penalty but Parra missed from a handy position.
But he opened the second half with a 42nd minute penalty goal which also brought up his 300th point in Test matches. And once again Carter responded with his fourth two minutes later.
New Zealand showed great intent from the re-start as lock Sam Whitelock took the ball forward and set up ball which saw Dulin put a mid-field kick in. It dipped on fullback Israel Dagg but he took the ball on his knees and flung a long ball across field to Piutau who fed centre Ben Smith.
He slipped a grubber kick through into wide open spaces for Piutau to chase through and out-pace the defence to slide over for the grounding in the 45th minute.
Piutau went close moments later but in diving for another kick through the ball just beat him into touch. However, lock Brodie Retallick stole the French lineout throw, and while France recovered the ball on the ground, it was knocked on and France won the scrum. But New Zealand were penalised.
The game was played after rain earlier and on a surface which was unsound and dug up by every scrum that occurred.
However, New Zealand retained their impressive recent record over France and head to Twickenham for their next encounter against England.
Scorers: France 19 (Brice Dulin try; Morgan Parra con, 4 pen) New Zealand 26 (Charles Piutau, Kieran Read tries; Dan Carter con, 4 pen; Aaron Cruden con). HT: 9-9
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