French cannot catch a break against All Blacks: third test loss 49-14

Unfavourable is the feeling that Les Bleus will hold, after more incidents of referee calls did not fall their way against the All Blacks in Dunedin. In what seems to be a case of that the ‘French cannot catch a break’ seemed to cloud another All Blacks 49-14 win.

What was clear, was that an more accurate home side pushed away the visitors efforts, even though many will have seen that France were at times the more attacking team. It was just that after more injury and bad luck, the visitors were unable to overcome the better composed All Blacks after 80 minutes.

The French team were as committed during this test as any of the three matches in June. Over the 80 minutes at Forsyth-Barr Stadium, they certainly warranted a stronger New Zealand defence. But, it has been in the calls and judgements by World Rugby officials; that are too blatant to ignore, meaning that when it comes to the crunch, the French never got a break while in New Zealand.

All Blacks 49 – Tries: Rieko Ioane (3), Damian McKenzie (2), Ben Smith, Matt Todd; Conversions: McKenzie (7) 

France 14 – Tries: Baptiste Serin, Wesley Fofana; Cons: Anthony Belleau (2)

Did New Zealand play expertly from the opening whistle? No. They in fact watched periods early on, where the French were superior. With more control to begin with, Les Bleus scored twice in the first 30 minutes to show how dangerous France are.

Their attack failed later though, but in the same pattern as the previous matches, it began with France holding an ascendancy. That was until the better accomplished home team found their chance to attack.

In another telling moment though, when the All Blacks were hot on attack in the first half, a clear example of player-interference occurred which the officials handled with an Inspector Clouseau ability.

Strangely, the inadvertent interference was considered by the officials but, seemed to be disregarded too simply. The try was awarded to the All Blacks. No surprises, the moment did affect the visitors morale though. It was incidental, yet matched a failed consistency from the officials over the last few weeks.

For any rugby fans who can multi-task and watch the game as well as social media, it might have been that this was the time when people began to ask ‘when will the French catch a break?’ However, on the field, the match continued.

French can’t catch a break against All Blacks – third test loss

This game seemed to run at a fast pace. The scoring action was as follows:

12th minute – Baptiste Serin [replacement halfback] shows how a wealth of possession can allow an exhausted All Black line to ‘open up’.

16th minute – Ben Smith uses pressure and territory to his advantage, as some great lead-up work earns Bender another test try.

23rd minute – a very nice outcome from an lineout move, with Matt Todd acting on instinct to be at the center of a move which ‘carved up’ the poor French lineout. Repeatedly over the series, it has failed – to the benefit of Scott Barrett and co.                                                                                              28th minute – Wesley Fofana decides that he is the best angle for attack. Good position on the field, where over the match the French hold a favourable advantage, is capitalized on this occasion.

32nd minute – the fifth try, is probably one which will be discussed specifically. From a centrally positioned All Blacks scrum, Aaron Smith feeds Damian McKenzie on the run.

While the referee decision certainly impeded the French teams, it does not distract from All Black defence. They held the French out from a total of nine minutes of attack in ‘black territory’. Conversion of opportunities was the visitors failure – referee calls aside.

France lose shape after good first half

Watch the video, and it will seem apparent. Composure is one behaviour that Sam Whitelock can trust him men to exhibit, right up to the last whistle.

46th minute – a lightning quick run by McKenzie exposed a yawning gap. Benefiting from some poor mid-field defence, the line which the small Kiwi half ran to, gave him a perfect chance to repay his team mates (after an extremely poor restart kick).

52nd minute – some set-piece magic from the hosts. The timing was near perfect, post the lineout, the maul looked solid and when a midfield exchange opened up after a Sonny Bill Williams-to-McKenzie-to-Rieko Ioane that opened up the field for the Blues winger

59th minute – a steal by Scott Barrett allows for better counter-attack opportunity, and the All Blacks never let those chances pass them by. Result…an Ioane try to cement this sides dominance.

All Blacks ramp-up the pressure to win Series 3-0

High skill was now evident. The highlight video will demonstrate how the pressure on the French was bound to tell.

65th minute – after so much territorial advantage, it seemed like Shannon Frizell had his debut try. Multiple phases benefited the patience of the All Blacks, until a TMO decision said that Frizell ‘may have been’ held-up over the line. A shame, but he had played exceptionally, and looks to be a skilled backrower.

Not to be denied, seconds after the held-up try, an All Blacks scrum directed the attack towards the flank. Space opened, and Ioane finished off as many an All Black has demonstrated. By crossing the line again, Ioane equalled Billy Wallace, Tana Umaga and Joe Rokocoko who all scored hatricks against France. The winger, in his 11th test match, showed what a sensational finisher he can be.

It was very nearly a higher score, but for some mistakes over both sides. Not taking anything away from the opening quarter, the french failed to score any points in the second half. It has to be a gauling point by the  team who promised so much.

Dejection for the French yes, however they showed innovation and desire. But when not at 100% against the hosts, they were overpowered for the majority of the competition. At times, the visitors showed a composure which mirrored their play at times in the Six Nations – just a pity, it was not a constant measure. And a pity that officialdom appeared to be not in their favour.

The aggregate scores were 127-38 across three games. An average of 42-13 but, that does not reflect the matches. Les Bleus were at times able to dictate play, and the visitors [and the hosts] will need to address those fundamentals in the future, while still knowing the All Blacks were dominant.

Steve Hansen new selections come up put smelling like Roses

The All Blacks had to do the hard work early, before the excitement could be shown from the backline later in the game. Energy helped here, with an excited home crowd too, and with the excitement of new players added to the toolbox. a success. Names like Karl Tu’inukuafe, Jordie Barrett and Luke Whitelock (below) have all shown their credentials over the series too.

Luke Whitelock, Karl Tu’inukuafe Jackson Hemopo and Jordie Barrett of the All Blacks sing the anthem during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 23, 2018 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Captain Sam Whitelock said “I think we were on our toes a little bit more this week. It’s great, the boys were energetic and it showed when we got the ball in hand,” was his sentiment post-game.

He will be delighted with both the core team members, and the debutantes [times four of them] who each contributed. “The young guys coming through have really stepped up. That middle-tier – McKenzie included – have really grown an arm and a leg,” which is what the selection of new All Blacks was all about. Steve Hansen will have been happiest that the call to add Frizell, Jack Goodhew and Jackson Hemopo (see above image) and Richie Mo’unga off the bench, was the right call.

Matt Todd came off the bench in the first half, when Ardie Savea succumbed to injury. The Crusader put his head in the right place, and showed he will push Sam Cane hard for the number seven jersey in August.

So if not that the French might feel hard done for tonight entirely, yet over the course of the series (with decisions in each test telling blows) they have not been as consistent as the hosts. New Zealand are a quality side, and are not going to be easy to beat; by any Six Nations side [apart from the British and Irish Lions in Wellington, 2017].

The home sides selections have meant the World Champions again come-up smelling like roses. How important those calls will be, come September 2019 will only be shown over the next months of The Rugby Championship, and the all too imortant end of year tour results against England and Ireland.

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