All Blacks romp home in dominant second half

Ngani Lumape scored an incredible second half tray. Photo: Getty Images
Ngani Lumape scored an incredible second half tray. Photo: Getty Images
If the first test was France's best chance of winning, then they are facing a horribly long next two weeks for the All Blacks look ominously good already.

It barely took 40 minutes to scrape off the inevitable first game rust and what was underneath looked bright and shiny and quite compelling.

No one surely expected the margin of victory would be this big? No one surely imagined the All Blacks, in game one, would look so assured and deadly?

If this was them just throwing a performance together last minute as they say it was, then there is plenty to be excited. The running and the movement in the final quarter was superb.

The confidence and awareness was at a different level and if there was one stunning difference between the two teams, it was the speed at which the All Blacks were playing deep into the game.

The bench, having been asked to deliver something, did just that. Damian McKenzie had barely been on the park for five minutes when he scored a try and made another.

Karl Tu'inukuafe came on directly into a scrum and it was one in which the French were crushed suggesting the two events were not a coincidence.

Rieko Ioane celebrates with Aaron Smith. Photo: Getty Images
Rieko Ioane celebrates with Aaron Smith. Photo: Getty Images
As for Nagani Laumape…what's he actually made of? He was another who made an instant and telling impact and the contribution of the bench made it feel a bit like one minute France were threatening to win, the next the game was all over and we had been rapidly and unexpectedly introduced to shock and awe rugby All Blacks' style.

A first half slog where neither team really got their game going, changed dramatically in a 10-minute period after the break.

The All Blacks reverted to a more direct approach through their forwards, built the phases and with it the pressure.

The French creaked and creaked and eventually snapped when Paul Gabrillagues took Ryan Crotty out with a high tackle. Well, what passes for a high tackle these days and that one mistake cost France the game.

The All Blacks went up a gear in that block, scoring three tries that were all built on the precision of their basic skills.

It was good old fashioned straight running, neat timing and slick handling that broke the French.

But their patience has to be praised, too. They were a bit clunky and awkward in the first half, not sure of one another and not able to really get their ball carriers hammering over the gainline.

The All Blacks had talked up France's defensive prowess and as it turned out, with good reason.

There was a smooth, calm effective wall put up by the French. They sacrificed a little linespeed for tackle accuracy and intensity and it worked for them.

They gave the All Blacks a little space – enough to invite them to attack it – but not so much as it could be exploited. It meant the All Blacks had to be patient, inventive and equally accurate in trying to break it down.

There were a few promising moments on that front – some intriguing alignments and angles that enabled the All Blacks to get the ball into the wider channel outside the centre where defences find it hard to make good decisions.

What also couldn't go unnoticed was the work of Scott Barrett in the role of distributor. It seems like an age ago now but when he made his debut against Ireland in 2016, he blew everyone away with his ability to charge into the midfield and offload out of the tackle.

That part of his game as in full view again and the first try was made in Taranaki no doubt thanks to hours of backyard rugby at the Barrett homestead.

Scott hit the line, freed his arms to find younger brother Jordie in support and after Ryan Crotty couldn't quite make the line Aaron Smith was able to pop the ball to big brother Beauden who was able to dive into the corner.

New Zealand 52 (B. Barrett, C. Taylor, B. Smith, R. Ioane (2), D. McKenzie, N. Laumape, A. Savea tries; B. Barrett 4 cons, 2 pens)
France 11 (R. Grosso tries; M. Parra 2 pens)

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