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Friday Sep 8, 2023

France get off to a perfect start at Rugby World Cup with All Blacks victory

Rugby World Cup hosts France got their campaign off on the perfect note with a 27 – 13 victory over three-time champions New Zealand.

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Starting with a bang, the All Blacks silenced the raucous crowd with an early try courtesy of flying winger Mark Telea, who gathered a well-placed kick from Beauden Barrett.

France would take the lead throughout the first twenty minutes as Thomas Ramos slotted two penalties.

Richie Mo’unga would put the Kiwis back in front 8 – 6 with a well-taken penalty in the 25th minute.

Continuing the tit-for-tat nature of the fixture, Ramos would regain the lead before halftime to leave the hosts with a rather precarious 9 – 8 lead.

Starting the second half in a similar fashion to the first, the All Blacks struck quickly through Telea once again. Continuing the mirroring of action, Mo’unga would miss the conversion, but crucially, the Kiwis lead by four points.

The next ten minutes would see Les Bleus ramp up the pressure without ever quite getting the reward.

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As was the case in their loss to the Springboks, the All Blacks would defend bravely, but eventually, the pressure told as Damian Penaud scampered over. It was a relieving moment for the winger, who moments earlier had been denied by a sublime last-ditch tackle from Mo’unga.

Ramos slotted the conversion, and from here, it was all about the French who smothered their visitors. Building scoreboard pressure through the boot of Ramos, the French would stretch their lead beyond a converted try at 22 – 13.

It would take until the 78th minute to rubber-stamp the result when replacement Melvyn Jaminet slipped over for the final try of the match.

He would controversially miss the conversion as one touch judge raised their flag to signal a good attempt whilst the other kept their flag down.

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A minor detail in the grand scheme of things as the French handed the All Blacks a first-ever loss in the pool stages at a Rugby World Cup.

Whilst the result looks rather lopsided, there was little to choose between the two sides for large portions of the fixture. However, when it mattered most, the hosts had extra gear, and this ultimately proved the difference.

For the Kiwis, their backline looked dangerous, in particular Telea and outside centre Reiko Ioane, who sliced through the French defence on a number of occasions.

It was in the forwards where the battle was lost as the French power would ultimately prove to be the visitors’ Achilles heel.

Despite the loss, the All Blacks realistically face just one more challenge against an improved Italian side but are very much the masters of their own destiny.

The victors, on the other hand, will be glad to have got this high-pressure fixture out of the way and will welcome back two crucial players in centre, Jonathan Danty and Cyril Baille.

Danty’s absence in the midfield was felt this evening as Ioane exposed the gap between the French centres seemingly at will. Thus, the La Rochelle star’s return will only make the hosts a more frightening proposition going forward.

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