x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mighty All Blacks show their true class

New Zealand outclass a tired-looking French team 39-12 to end their tour of Europe unbeaten as coach Henry hails 'special victory'.

New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu, right, fends off  the challenge of France's Francois Trinh-Duc during their 39-12 win in Marseille on Saturday.
New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu, right, fends off the challenge of France's Francois Trinh-Duc during their 39-12 win in Marseille on Saturday.

New Zealand rounded off their four-Test European tour without conceding a try after an emphatic 39-12 win over France at the Stade Velodrome on Saturday. The All Blacks, who were actually kitted out in white for a change, ran in five unanswered tries as they dominated their hosts, and held them pointless after the break.

"It was a great game with two teams wanting to attack," said the New Zealand coach Graham Henry. "It was really good to see two teams wanting to play attacking rugby football. "That victory is a special one. We've had a challenging year and we won the last six games. I'm delighted by the players' performance, they can now enjoy the summer." New Zealand were simply a class apart in attack but they proved on this tour that they are just as impressive when it comes to shutting teams out. After beating Wales, Italy and England this month, the All Blacks have now not conceded a try in Europe since their World Cup quarter-final loss to France two years ago.

France have failed to beat the All Blacks on home soil since a win on the same ground nine years ago. France captain Thierry Dusautoir did not try to hide his disappointment after his side were humbled following impressive wins over South Africa and Samoa. "The fact is that we were not able to contest their rucks," Dusautoir said. "We lost the rucks battle, we didn't manage to play aggressively and they were quicker on the ball.

"It's not just about the score, we also failed to play our game. If we had the answer to avoid this kind of setback, we would be a great nation of rugby." France did beat New Zealand in Dunedin in June, but that was the All Blacks without their captain Richie McCaw plus fly-half Dan Carter, On Saturday, Carter scored 24 points while after the game McCaw was named the International Rugby Board's Player of the Year for the second time in his career.

Sitiveni Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina, Jerome Kaino, Cory Jane and Conrad Smith scored tries for the tourists, who face the Barbarians at Twickenham next week. Muliaina was playing his 82nd game for his country to move him second in the all-time appearances behind former captain Sean Fitzpatrick. "It's a very special achievement," Henry said of full-back Muliaina's achievement. "He played superbly and is back to his old form."

France came into the game in confident mood but were undone by the All Blacks' frenetic attacking pace and given a lesson in finishing. Scrum-half Julien Dupuy's penalty gave them an fourth minute lead but New Zealand responded four minutes later with their first attacking move. Ma'a Nonu offloaded to Sivivatu, who broke a tackle before crossing the line for a converted try. The hosts went 9-7 ahead from two more penalties from Dupuy, but it was short lived as Muliaina scored New Zealand's second try in the 22nd minute following a move started by Jimmy Cowan.

Carter missed the conversion but added a penalty before the All Blacks stretched their lead to 20-9, driving the French pack behind their line for a try awarded to Kaino. Carter, who earlier this year had a spell at French club Perpignan cut short by an Achilles' injury, landed the conversion but France managed to stay in touch thanks to Francois Trinh-Duc's drop goal. After the interval, France quickly showed signs of fatigue. Dupuy missed two penalties, the later causing home fans to start whistling at their own team.

Carter converted a penalty of his own and hit the bar before Jane kicked the ball over the defence and latched on to it for a converted try in the 63rd minute. Tempers frayed towards the end when a minor scuffle broke out after Smith touched down with less than 10 minutes left following a New Zealand turnover. Carter capped his team's bright performance with another conversion as the French players looked exhausted and disgusted.

"It's a big disappointment but don't forget all the work that has been done," said France coach Marc Lievremont. "I'm still very confident about this group and there is room for improvement ahead of the Six Nations." * With agencies