All Blacks put away France 24-19 to end year with 13-1 mark
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) New Zealand absorbed long spells of pressure to defeat France 24-19 in clinical style at the Stade de France on Saturday.
A year after being humiliated by the All Blacks 62-13 at the Rugby World Cup, the French put the world champions on the back foot and kept their fans on tenterhooks to the end. But most of their possession and territory were rendered sterile against a resolute New Zealand defense.
France scored one try an hour in, while the All Blacks produced three, and finished a gritty match on attack. They finished their season with 13 wins and one historic loss to Ireland, and all their trophies retained.
The All Blacks started slow and relied on two moments of brilliance to make the difference in the first half through tries by backs Israel Dagg and Beauden Barrett, the world player of the year who tallied 14 points. They added another try through prop Charlie Faumuina.
France, turned over three times in the first five minutes, was punished on a counterattack after only seven minutes. A Barrett crosskick was caught by winger Julian Savea, and fullback Israel Dagg finished the move.
France continued to unsettle the All Black with quick offloads and deep runs, and pegged New Zealand in its 22 for most of the half, but when New Zealand broke out it scored, and Barrett added a penalty for 10-0.
A Maxime Machenaud penalty reduced the gap but the Tricolors again failed to finish a nice buildup around the half hour mark when playmaker Wesley Fofana threw a forward pass. Machenaud added another penalty to go into the half 10-6 down.
Barrett hurt France's morale at the start of the second half when he intercepted and ran 90 meters and converted his own try for 17-6.
Baptiste Serin, who replaced Machenaud at scrumhalf, slotted a penalty, but he was brushed aside by Faumuina as the prop charged to the tryline. At 24-9 with a quarter to go, New Zealand's lead look too good.
From a scrum penalty, Serin tapped and his no-look reverse pass set up Picamoles to score. Serin converted and added a penalty with four minutes to go. France was within five, and enjoying rousing support, but the All Blacks pinned the home side in their half and ran out time.