All Blacks beat France 14-10

 

New Zealand's Joe Rokocoko slips a diving French tackle at Westpac Stadium. Credit:NZPA / Ross...
New Zealand's Joe Rokocoko slips a diving French tackle at Westpac Stadium. Credit:NZPA / Ross Setford.
9.30pm: So it's au revoir to the French.

It's been a good series, certainly a welcome change from the normal June test that features the All Blacks spanking some hapless second-string European side by 60 points.

Keep an eye on this French team. They'll be a force in 2011.

As for the All Blacks, the jury is out.

They were better tonight but the memory of last week's limp performance will take a long time to disappear.

The likes of Kieran Read and Isaac Ross played better tonight but they need more tests to be fully judged.

Once McCaw, Carter, Williams, So'oialo and Sivivatu are back, there is no doubt the All Blacks will look a lot better.

Thanks for reading. 

 

9.23pm: An American working at the ODT last year drew our attention to the fact our television sports guys NEVER ask questions after a game.

We scoffed at first, but then realised he was right.

Well, Ian Smith just out-did himself with SEVEN consecutive statements and not one question.

To the French halfback Yachvili:

"A tough night in difficult conditions."

"A spirited comeback, a brilliant try."

"It was a tough night for kickers and for goal-kickers."

And to Mils Muliaina:

"A week of hard work rewarded with a good performance."

"It was all about the kicking game."

"Questions were asked about your physical ability. That was a lot better."

"This will do wonders for some of these young careers." 

 

9.18pm: McAlister misses a dropped goal.

The French attempt to run the ball out from their own line.

A couple of million Kiwis draw breath and see the horrors of 1994 unfolding before them.

Nah. French knock on.

ALL BLACKS WIN.

It's 14-10 after 80 sodden minutes at the Cake Tin.

A well-deserved win for the All Blacks.

But the French take home the Dave Gallaher Trophy and the memory of that wonderful win at Carisbrook. 

 

9.16pm: So if the score stands, the All Blacks win the game but the French take home the trophy.

Great kick for Rokocoko's corner but Joe can't quite control it. 

 

9.14pm: Aled de Malmanche is warming up.

He's got that look in his eyes that screams, "My All Black career could consist of zero caps and one jog to the middle for a scrum I didn't get to join". 

 

9.13pm: Five minutes to go and the All Blacks lead 14-10.

We're hard on attack, so the situation looks good.

Still no Whitelock, still no de Malmanche.

Go on Ted, get them on. 

 

9.09pm: Oh, that was magic.

The French were in a great attacking position and held the ball at the back of the ruck.

But they were driven off the ball by some hungry All Black forwards.

That's what I'm talking about. Good old-fashioned New Zealand rugby. 

 

9:06pm: So is anyone else nervous?

The All Blacks have dominated this test and played a whole heap better than last week.

But there's just four points in it and plenty of time left.

This will be a good test for the All Blacks. This is where they have to really dig deep and grind out a victory.

Play like the Crusaders, not the Highlanders, in other words. 

 

9.02pm: McAlister kicks a penalty.

All Blacks up 14-7 with 13 minutes to play.

HERE COMES BRYN EVANS!

Yes, the lanky lock who, well, is probably rather lucky to even be here has replaced Isaac Ross, who played reasonably well tonight.

Toeava on for Smith.

Yachvili kicks a penalty. All Blacks 14, France 10.

 

8.53pm: Yachvili - when did he come on? - misses a penalty for France.

So apparently the All Blacks need to win this test by six points or more to win the Dave Gallaher Trophy.

That's an unusual arrangement. Normally, if a series is tied, the team that held the trophy simply retains it.

 Conrad Smith just let a ball bounce in his own goal area and then knocked on.

Ooooh, nearly another classic French try. Heymans scorched down the left and put in a tricky kick. Clerc almost regathered but was foiled by Brad Thorn, of all people.

McAlister for Donald.

 

8.50pm: Stephen Donald, the drowned rat, kicks a lovely penalty from the sideline.

Weepu on for Cowan, Afoa on for Tialata.

Martin on for Chabbbbaaaalllll.

Hurried dropped goal attempt by Medard misses. 

 

8.47pm: Rain again driving into the Cake Tin.

It's absolutely, positively pi**ing down.

The game's getting quite tense. We've seen a little bit of niggle and I wouldn't be at all surprised if there's a fight in the last half hour. 

8.43pm: It's all happening now.

The French were back on attack but the All Blacks stuck back with a devastating counter and got right to the French line.

The French defended accurately and escaped.

But you get the sense there are plenty of tries left in this game.

Might have been Heymans, not Clerc, who scored for the French, by the way. 

 

8.38pm: MON DIEU!!

We have just witnessed one of the great winger's tries.

Vincent Clerc gets the ball inside his own half and takes off, beating All Black after All Black.

I was convinced he'd stepped into touch twice but the replay shows he did not.

Even All Black captain Mils Muliaina can do nothing as Clerc steps and twinkles his way to the line.

Great conversion from Dupuy. It's 8-7 and the French have stunned us all.

If it was the "try from the ends of the earth" in 1994, that was the try they made in heaven. Wonderful stuff. 

 

8.33pm: The second half starts with Stephen Donald kicking out on the full. Excellent.

The French have made no fewer than three changes, two in the front row.

There's a rooster on the loose.

What cock-related quip will Mex deliver now? 

 

8.28pm: In some respects, it's a difficult first half to sum up neatly because of the awful conditions and the high number of errors.

But the All Blacks have really dominated this test so far.

They've looked far more urgent, especially in the breakdown area where they copped so much criticism last week.

Should probably be leading by more but they'll be happy with the effort. 

 

8.21pm: Finally.

Stephen Donald gets his easiest attempt of the night and lands the penalty.

All Blacks 8, France 0.

There goes the hooter.

Half-time in the second test in Wellington. 

 

8.17pm: Dupuy misses another penalty.

I make that 0 from 5 if you count both team's attempts.

Poor weather, but still. 

 

8.13pm: The weather is absolutely shocking.

It's funny how everyone bags Dunedin for its weather and bangs on about how it affects rugby.

And yet here we are in Wellington - they nearly got hypothermia last year, and tonight the driving rain is ruining the game.

French halfback Dupuy has just missed a penalty, so it's still 5-0.

8.09pm: ANOTHER ALL BLACK TRY!

Oh, come onnnnnnn.

TMO says no. And I think he's got it wrong.

Stephen Donald had slipped a pass to Cory Jane and the Hurricanes winger had done superbly to slide over the line, carrying two French players with him.

I didn't see a problem. Jane grounded the ball before the line but momentum easily carried him over.

TMO reckons a French arm got under the ball. Poor decision. 

 

8.05pm: ALL BLACK TRY!

It had been a skittery first quarter in this test but the game has finally come alive.

The All Blacks move on to attack as the rain pelts down and, significantly, the forwards start to take control.

The French overload their defence on the left-hand side, leaving space on the right where Ma'a Nonu pops up to run on a nice angle to the line.

Donald misses the conversion. He doesn't look like making a kick in the tough conditions.

All Blacks up 5-0. 

 

7.56pm: Stephen Donald misses another penalty.

The swirling winds in Wellington can make kicking a real lottery.

Perhaps these important tests should be played at grounds where conditions are calmer. Like, say, a covered stadium in Dunedin.

Note to my readers: I am NOT suggesting we should build a stadium at Awatea St in the hope it will become the NZRU's favoured venue.

Lighten up :) 

Mex offers a rare moment of clarity when he says the All Blacks should forget penalties, given the variable winds, and kick for the corners. 

 

7.55pm: A little moment of controversy.

The French winger, Clerc I think, kicks from inside his own line and is hit late, with no arms, by Ma'a Nonu.

There didn't seem to be a HUGE amount of malice in the hit but Clerc rolls over like Didier Drogba and appears in agony.

He recovers quickly, of course.

The French get the penalty. Their kick to touch is horrific but Joe Rokocoko knocks on. Hands like feet tonight, our Joe.

 

7.49pm: Priceless!

Keven Mealamu goes down with a gash to his head.

A scrum has been set, so the Blond Beast, Aled de Malmanche, runs on to replace him.

Mealamu promptly gets patched up, gets back on his feet and gets ready for the scrum.

De Malmanche (what a name) runs off again.

That's not a test cap, Ian Smith warns. The clock was off. 

 

7.46pm: Another excellent Jimmy Cowan kick drives the French back and forces a mistake.

Cowan never runs with the ball and never really takes a game by the scruff of the neck.

But he's the best defensive halfback we've ever seen and his kicking game has developed superbly.

The conditions in Wellington are really affecting handling. Neither side has been able to build any momentum. 

 

7.42pm: France moves into the All Black 22m and nearly opens the scoring.

Not with a sweeping move that leads to a try, oh no.

With an accursed dropped goal attempt.

It missed. 

7.38pm: We're underway in Wellington.

Stephen Donald has missed a difficult early penalty kick so it's still 0-0.

Bit of a messy start. Jimmy Cowan has popped in a series of box kicks and the All Black chase has been good. 

 

7.34pm: Mex is back!

I wondered if Murray Mexted, the great orator, had been sidelined by Sky.

No such luck. He's back in the box and just made the obvious response when TJ mentioned the French fans having a rooster:

LE COQ! 

 

7.30pm: Prediction time.

I'm under pressure after last week's superbly accurate French tip.

France is  a very good team. If they play well, they can absolutely win the series 2-0.

But I just can't see the All Blacks, even this side that looks so deficient in some areas, losing again.

All Blacks 24, France 18.

 

7.27pm: It will be interesting to see how George Whitelock copes if he comes off the bench.

I was actually thrilled when I saw Whitelock play for the first time for Alhambra-Union a few years ago.

He seemed a natural leader and a real all-action loose forward.

He didn't do much for Otago and then apparently got encouraged to move to Canterbury by the All Black coaches.

So he's been on the radar for a little while. ODT rugby writer Steve Hepburn doesn't rate him but I still think he's got more to offer.

 

7.20pm: It's not a sell-out, by the looks of it. Not good, Wellington.

Team news, in case you missed it:

FRANCE: Mermoz in for Basteraud at centre, Mas for Marconnet at prop, Chabbbbaaaallll for Pape at lock.

LES BLACKS: Hore for Mealamu at hooker, Smith for Toeava at centre, and a loose trio of Kaino-Latimer-Read that replaces Read-Thomson-Messam.

I'd have started Weepu at halfback.

Read makes me very nervous at No 8 but there were hardly any other options. 

 

7.15pm: A little point of discussion to consider before kick-off.

Many people made the point this week that the reaction after the All Black loss at Carisbrook was far from the usual wailing and period of mourning.

Which raises two interesting questions:

Have we grown up and learned to accept defeat with grace?

Or do we just not care any more?

I think it's a bit of both. Mainly, I just think people accept the All Blacks now play 14-15 times a year (far too many) and we will lose at least 2-3 tests every year.

BUT

I wonder what will happen if we lose tonight.

The All Blacks rarely lose two consecutive tests, remember.

 

7.10pm: Sky's coverage so far has been matey, matey, matey.

Sumo is buttering up every All Black he interviews, Ali Williams has just swapped some banter with TJ and a grey-suited Dan Carter has been his usual mix of politeness and blandness.

Melodie Robinson "interviewed" French assistant coach Emile N'Tamack and came up with this "question":

"You are all very young and look good."

 Hmmmm. 

 

7.04pm: Reader interaction and it's only taken four minutes!

Peter from Dunedin advises Alhambra-Union, or as he calls it Union-Alhambra, beat Dunedin in today's feature club rugby game.

That will mean everyone at the Northern Oaks will be in a good mood tonight. Apparently the one, the only Matt Clutterbuck is being farewelled with a dinner.

That's a nice touch for a bloke who has been the heart and soul of his club side and flat-out should have got a better deal from the Otago selectors. 

 

7pm: Evening everyone.

Welcome to the ODT Online and our second live blog from the All Black-France series.

Hope you are warm, comfortable and aware tomorrow will be a very black day if we lose this game.

First, a disclaimer. In case you hadn't picked it up, I am NOT in Wellington.

I am, in fact, writing from my house in one of Dunedin's hillier suburbs. I'd be more specific but I'm keen to avoid hate mail from those loyal readers who struggle to understand what TONGUE IN CHEEK means.

Anyway, it was a fresh day in Dunedin today but looks really miserable in Wellington. Tsk tsk, why do we bother playing night tests in the capital . . . . . .

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