France beats All Blacks as it happened

 

9.29pm: Right, that's me for the night. A quick summary of the test:

Best All Black: Cory Jane. Runs a bit hot and cold but had some lovely touches and his run that led to the Messam try was fantastic.

Worst All Black: Take your pick. Isaac Ross was too loose on his debut. Isaia Toeava was error-prone. But Kieran Read gets the final vote. He looked out of his depth.

Best French player: Halfback Julien Dupuy, on debut, was excellent. Honourable mention to fullback Maxime Medard.

Worst French player: I couldn't name one. They played well tonight and should have won by more.

Match rating: Eight snails out of 10.

Good night everybody. And remember it's OK if the All Blacks lose the occasional test.

Don't panic. We've got no depth and we can't win without Richie McCaw but . . .

OK, it's time to panic.

 

9.19pm: I had - still have - my doubts about Dunedin's new covered stadium.

But no more.

The All Blacks have just lost two consecutive tests at Carisbrook.

The Highlanders and Otago now get beaten here all the time.

KNOCK IT DOWN! 

 

9.15pm: FRANCE WINS!

FRANCE WINS FRANCE WINS FRANCE WINS.

It's game over here at the Brook. France 27, All Blacks 22.

Le disaster.

It's been a mixed bag of a test.

The first 20min were dire, and the All Blacks generally were appalling in the first half.

But the French looked lively and deserved to win. They went nuts at the final whistle.

New Zealand rugby doesn't have bottomless depth, after all. A lot of tonight's players looked off international class.

 

9.09pm: BUT WAIT.

You NEVER discount the All Blacks.

They're straight back on attack and Ma'a Nonu, who's done nothing all night, scores in the corner.

Donald can't convert but the lead is chopped to five with 4min to play.

 

9.07pm: Oh dear.

That's good night from Carisbrook. Or bonsoir.

The French have scored and they lead by 10 with 8min to play.

Luke McAlister, rushed back into the All Blacks thanks to a special NZRU ruling, throws a beautiful pass.

Straight to the French fullback with the big sideburns.

He runs 65m. To score. 

 

9.03pm: French halfback Dupuy kicks a penalty.

Tourists 20, Good Guys 17.

Mils Muliaina just took a SENSATIONAL catch about 10 feet in the air. The new captain's had a pretty good night.

Things are getting very tense now. Can this fresh-faced All Black side dig it out? Or will it crumble faster than Manchester United with a big cheque waved in its face?

 

8.59pm: By the way, what the HELL happened in Dunedin club rugby today?

Southern beating Varsity A?

Kaikorai beating Harbour?

Ridiculous.

French hard on attack. Still 17-17 with 15 to go. 

 

8.53pm: Press container windows are starting to steam up.

Chabbbbaaaaallllll. The roar goes up as caveman cult hero Sebastien Chabal enters the game for the French.

Stephen Donald kicks a monster penalty for the All Blacks and it's game on at 17-17 with 20 minutes to go.

 Weepu's made a big difference. The whole All Black backline looks sharper with him at halfback. 

The French have just missed a penalty. Still tied. 

8.39pm: Very, very, VERY minor moment of excitement when some possibly-inebriated, definitely-dumb fan decides to streak across the field.

With his clothes on. Come on.

This encourages a few fans on the terrace to attempt to hit the lubricated lout with nearly-full bottles of booze.

A couple (of bottles, not fans) make it all the way on to the ground. Could be very dangerous, but All Black physio and Dunedin man Pete Gallagher comes to the rescue.

Not much to report from the field. Lot of kicking. Some good defence.

Stephen Donald kicks a penalty. France up 17-14 with half an hour to play.

Piri Weepu about to come on for Jimmy Cowan. I'm afraid the Highlanders captain has been anonymous, apart from being one of the players who missed a tackle in the lead-up to France's first try.

8.33pm: Second half begins.

Anybody's game, obviously. But surely the All Blacks will play with a bit more polish.

The consensus among the press pack is that the All Black loose forwards have been outplayed and our midfield has been poor.

I'd bring on Tanerau Latimer, move Thomson to 6 and get rid of Read.

 

8.22pm: My line here was going to be: "Well, it could be worse."

Instead, I can report the All Blacks have, well, played like All Blacks at last and created a massive turning point in this test.

Trailing by 14, the All Blacks had camped in the French half but looked likely to have nothing to show for it but a Stephen Donald penalty goal.

The French kicked off just as the hooter sounded and, understandably, relaxed as they expected the All Blacks to avoid taking a risk.

Hah. Say that again: hah!

Les Blacks popped in a little chip kick, which was regathered by Cory Jane. The Hurricanes winger then peeled off a lovely, zigzaggy run, completely bamboozling the French defensive line.

Jane weighted his last pass perfectly and Liam Messam scored the try.

Huge, huge moment in the test. France up 17-11 at the half.

All Blacks might win from here. No way will they be as shocking in the second half as they were in the first 30min. And the French will fade.

 

8.10pm: Right, time to talk about something else.

Um, the croissants and cheese rolls laid out for the media before the game were first rate.

People are walking in front of the press box and obstructing our view. Typical.

What's the Saturday night movie?

We're losing. Badly. France 17, All Blacks 3. We're lucky to be on 3. 

 

8.02pm: Andrew Hore has been replaced by Keven Mealamu. Sore ribs, apparently.

This raises the issue of strength on the bench. Mealamu's a fine player but the All Black reserves include rookies Tanerau Latimer, Lelia Masaga and Brian - Bryn? Brawn? - Evans.

The French have Chabal, Martin and Beuaxis. Seasoned internationals.

A friend's just texted to ask if I am nervous.

To which I replied: No, I predicted a French win, remember.

 

7.56pm: Sacre bleu! The French have scored the first try of the game and lead 10-3.

The All Blacks knocked on just inside their own 22m. From the scrum that followed, the French first five Francois Trinh-Duc barged to the line.

To get there, he had to beat the tackles of ALL THREE All Black loose forwards. I repeat, a first five has run through three loose forwards. Pathetic defence there.

The All Blacks are looking as rusty as a rusty nail that's gone all rusty.

7.53pm: The test has started in predictable fashion, with both sides struggling for continuity.

There was one exciting moment when the All Blacks broke out and moved 70m before the movement broke down.

The French had a crack, too, but their best counter-attack didn't get past halfway.

It's 3-3, both teams having kicked a penalty. 

 

7.35pm: Nearly game time, at last.

The French run out first. Their away jerseys are so WHITE. They make pure snow look grubby.

Then the All Blacks, proudly led by fullback Mils Muliaina in his first test as captain.

I walked out of the glasshouse, sorry press box, to get a better sense of the atmosphere outside. I'd describe it as warm but far from electric.

Now the anthems. I'm almost dreading this bit because Le Marseillaise is one of the world's great national songs, second only to The Star Spangled Banner, and our one is such a boring dirge.

Emma Fraser, looking stunning, belts out the French anthem. Brilliant. Our mayor, Peter Chin, does his best with the Maori and English versions of our one.

Then haka time. Regular readers of the ODT will know I am well tired of the haka and our obsession with it, but I admit seeing one performed live by the All Blacks takes some beating. It's Ka Mate, which is no surprise. The All Blacks don't normally go for Kapa o Pango in the first test of the year.

 

7.15pm: Men in tutus. Must be test rugby time in Dunedin.

The boys from the Selwyn Ballet are strutting their stuff in the middle of the ground. I'm no dance expert but their efforts appear to be appreciated by the crowd.

About 80% full now, by my rough estimate. Very quiet in the container on the terrace they call a press box but outside there seems to be plenty of excitement.

The New Zealand Army brass band has replaced the dancing queens. Good traditional pre-match entertainment for our Gallic friends.

Well, well, Dan Carter is part of the TV3 commentary team with TJ and Kamo. Let's just say as a television personality, Carter makes a heck of a good underwear model.

 Carisbrook's looking beautiful, by the way. The old girl's days might be numbered but she can still be a special place on a night like this.

Army band gives way to Dave Dobbyn (he's not here, it's a CD) singing Slice of Heaven. Great song and all but WHY must we play it before EVERY All Black game?

 

6.45pm: So welcome to Carisbrook for the first test of the year. It's black v blue, kiwis v frogs, and most importantly, it's a chance to get some payback for that dark night in Cardiff 20 months ago.

Oh, you've brought into the All Blacks' assertion that this test has nothing to do with redemption for the World Cup quarterfinal loss? Gullible you.

This is absolutely about redemption. This is absolutely about regaining lost pride by smashing Les Bleus back to Gaul.

The only question is whether these Baby Blacks, minus McCaw and Carter and Williams and Smith and Kahui and so many others, are capable of such a performance.

I'll go on the record now and say I smell an upset. France by 10. But then I've been wrong many times before.

It's a cool, calm night at Carisbrook. The ground looks lovely and is, I'd estimate, about half full at the moment. Both teams are training in the middle but are being upstaged by the youngsters playing rippa rugby.

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