PARIS: France survived a brief yet brutal meltdown to claim their first victory against New Zealand since their 2009 win in Dunedin as they beat the All Blacks 40-25 in their last autumn test with some free-flowing rugby on Saturday.
Les Bleus, who had not beaten the three-time world champions on home soil in 21 years, ended a 14-match losing streak against their rivals with tries by Peato Mauvaka (2), Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud while Melvyn Jaminet kicked the rest of the points with clockwork precision.
New Zealand, who threatened a comeback with three tries in 20 minutes early in the second half through Jordie Barrett, who kicked the other points, Rieko Ioane and Ardie Savea, suffered their second defeat in a row after being humbled 29-20 by Ireland last weekend.
The home side’s stunning performance completed a perfect series for France after wins against Argentina and Georgia, and gave them their first victory in Paris against the All Blacks since 1973, two years before they host the World Cup.
The thrilling test encapsulated the French game - an exhilarating mix of flair and power to which Les Bleus added their tendency to let things slip from their hands.
“Not the way we wanted to finish our year. France got out and scored early and that made it tough for us. No excuses at all," said New Zealand captain Samuel Whitelock.
“They were better than us tonight. It hurts to say that but we’ve got to hold on to that feeling because we don’t want to feel it again."
Addressing the 79,501 crowd, Ntamack said: “We made it thanks to you. Thank you so much. We’ve had tough moment and we’re so happy to share it with you."
New Zealand made seven changes to the team who lost to Ireland, notably bringing in Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf after Beauden Barrett failed to recover in time from a knock, alongside experienced scrumhalf Aaron Smith, but they were rarely a match for Les Bleus’ poise, pace and power.
France coach Fabien Galthie, who captained the team that won 42-33 in Marseille in 2000 for their last home win over the All Blacks, restored Ntamack to his favoured flyhalf position after fielding him at centre in the previous tests and it paid off.
A quick combination between Dupont and Ntamack put the visitors’ defence on the back foot and on the resulting lineout, the maul brought Mauvaka over the line.
Barrett, however, slotted two penalties as France paid for a lack of discipline under sustained pressure.
France opened an eight-point lead as Ntamack faked a pass to the outside before evading two tackles with a clever side-step and diving over.
Jaminet’s penalty from an angle extended the advantage.
France threatened on almost every incursion into New Zealand’s half, to the deafening roars of a raucous crowd which was sent into raptures when Mauvaka went over again after another dominant maul from a lineout for his fifth try in nine caps.
Les Bleus were less focused after the interval and their advantage started to melt as Barrett touched down in the corner after a pass from Smith before Ioane dazzled through the midfield to add a second try in four minutes.
France’s defence was at a loss and a driving maul from a penalty lineout sent Savea over the line. Barrett converted to slash the deficit to two points.
A splendid counter attack from his own 22 metres by Ntamack brought France close to the line and Savea was sin-binned for being off his feet with the hosts back in control after Jaminet’s penalty.
Penaud then grabbed a loose ball and raised his arm in anticipated celebration as he ran unchallenged towards the line to give France a lead they would not surrender.
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