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Win for All Blacks, but the fans see red

Geoffrey Doumayrou of France reacts to teammate Benjamin Fall's red card during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Westpac Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Expert
16th June, 2018
121
4367 Reads

The All Blacks have beaten the French 26-13 in Wellington in a game that was a real struggle to watch for fans.

Unfortunately cards will be a key topic spoken about as people review this game but perhaps more than the cards, the All Blacks’ poor performance and the French pride should be where people focus.

The French started really well and were on the board first with a penalty goal. They had a buzz about them and while everyone knew the odds were against them, they seemed up for the challenge.

The Kiwis struck back quickly as Joe Moody went over for a nice try having picked a lovely line to run onto a crisp Aaron Smith pass and the prop ran hard to go over the line unopposed.

Just as the game was hotting up the French found themselves with a mountain to climb. Their new No.15 – Benjamin Fall – went to compete with Beauden Barrett for a high ball but the Frenchman never got up high enough and instead crashed into the All Blacks No.10 legs, tipping him over and sending him head first into the ground from height.

While the decision of a red card is fair, no one would have complained if it had just been a yellow.

There were flashbacks to last week where a yellow card gave the All Blacks the chance to score try after try in the second half in Auckland.

When Ben Smith scored just a few minutes after this red card the writing was on the wall – just how big was the winning margin going to be?

But instead two things happened – the French fought hard and scrambled really well for 60 minutes, and the All Blacks played average to poor rugby for 60 minutes.

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Instead of pulling away and taking advantage of the extra space and man, the All Blacks struggled to get any rhythm going.

They kicked the ball away far too often, made error after error and in general just forced the play when they needed to play patiently.

At half time it made sense that the home side would get a quick rollocking from Hansen in the sheds and then come out and blow a tiring French side off the park. But that never happened.

Yes the All Blacks scored some points and the result was never in doubt but this was a poor, poor performance from them.

Discipline was terrible and while the ref did become a bit whistle happy in the second half, the All Blacks made things hard for themselves and even had TJ Perenara sin-binned as the team persistently infringed when the French were in the All Blacks 22.

The French made their own fair share of errors and it was a hard game to watch but the French never stopped trying.

Whereas in game one their heads dropped once things started going south, this week their heads stayed up and they took on the challenge with great pride and effort.

They even had two tries disallowed and managed to score a lovely try in the final minute. When you think about that and the points that could have gone their way this could easily have become a game that went down in rugby history – the day when the All Blacks lost at Wellington to 14 men.

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It’s hard to judge the French players when they had to play for so long with a man down. Bastareaud was better today than he was in game one – he needs to get himself into the games earlier and more consistently as he is a real talisman for the French. Thomas looked good but needs some more space to really unleash his pace and burn the opposition.

For the All Blacks no one really shone out. McKenzie came on earlier than he would have expected as Beauden Barrett had to go off with a head injury from the red card incident.

McKenzie played well with ball in hand and his pace in loose play is a real weapon. He needed to take a bit more control of the All Blacks and when they were struggling to break the French down could have done more to force the French back deep and make them make mistakes.

Game three could be interesting and let’s hope that there are no cards and we can see these two go at each other for a full 80 minutes.

The French will still be massive underdogs but they’ve shown in two games now that they can be a real threat to the All Blacks at times and if the Kiwis have another off day then who knows what could happen.

It will be an interesting review for Hansen and lots to talk about in the All Blacks camp next week. The usual Kiwi control and ruthlessness was missing in action today and they need to get that back quickly.

Final score
All Blacks 26
France 13

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