After a strong opening ten minutes from the French, where they applied significant pressure, had a Geoffrey Doumayrou try disallowed and had the All Blacks back-pedalling, fullback Benjamin Fall was ordered to leave the field and his side were left with just 14 men for the remaining 68 minutes.
Fall’s night ended early when he was shown a red card after taking All Blacks first-five eighth Beauden Barrett out in the air and subsequently out of the game. Referee Angus Gardner ruled Fall was not in a realistic position to make a play on the ball.
Fall headed to the bench and Barrett went for an HIA after landing awkwardly, where he was ruled out for the rest of the contest – as were his French opponents.
However, Jacques Brunel’s men were resilient in Fall’s absence for the remainder of the first spell, and were unfortunate to concede once more just seconds out from the break after a Rieko Ioane break down the left wing. Ioane found centre Anton Lienert-Brown on his inside who flipped the ball on to Jordie Barrett to score under the posts and drive a dagger into the French hearts on the stroke of halftime.
The second 40 lacked inspiration from the home side as the All Blacks attempted to once again separated themselves entering the final quarter of play. That separation never eventuated as the All Blacks were held to just five second-half points.
Their attack looked stale and lacked the regular cohesion fans have come accustomed to over the years. Passes weren’t going to hand and the ball wasn’t taken care of. On the defensive side of the ball, the All Blacks looked like they still hadn’t quite shaken the rust. Plenty of first-up tackles were missed and penalties were conceded.
Credit: All Blacks
Jordie Barrett grabbed his second try around the 60-minute mark after a Damian McKenzie break from a lineout near halfway. McKenzie found replacement halfback TJ Perenara who was dragged down five metres out, and the All Blacks simply shifted the ball through the hands for the 21-year-old Barrett to crash over.
The sides played with 14 men each for ten minutes after TJ Perenara was issued a yellow card when he was caught offside in a tackle late in the second half. France were almost shorthanded once again after flyhalf Anthony Belleau upended All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock above horizontal just minutes later.
French reserve hooker and debutante Pierre Bourgarit had a late try rubbed out after he was ruled to have made a double movement – his side’s second denied try of the night.
Plenty of credit must go to the gutsy French who showed incredible resilience after losing a man in the early stages. The back-row stood out as loose forward trio Kelian Galletier, Kevin Gourdon and Mathieu Ballibot combined to make 26 tackles, missing just one each and winning two turnovers.
France held the majority of the possession at 58% – a stark contrast to their 35% last weekend – but were unable to capitalise on the scoreboard. Replacement prop Cedate Gomes Sa scored the try of the night, finishing a 50-metre move after the final hooter following some slick offloading from Baptiste Serin and Alexandre Lapandry.
With victory now secured by the All Blacks, the series will conclude next weekend at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
ALL BLACKS 26 (J. Barrett 2, B. Smith, Moody tries; McKenzie 3 cons) FRANCE 13 (Gomes Sa try; Plisson con, Parra 2 pens) HT 21-6
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