All Blacks beats France 37-17 at Rugby World Cup
Updated: September 24, 2011, 07:46
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) New Zealand executed some payback against its Rugby World Cup nemesis by outclassing France 37-17 to qualify for the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Inspired by captain Richie McCaw in front of a full house at Eden Park, the All Blacks rose to the historic occasion of the great openside flanker becoming the first New Zealander to play 100 tests with a ruthlessly powerful display that made France look assuredly the B side it proclaimed not to be.
Famously victimized twice by France in the World Cup, the All Blacks ran in five tries to two to earn a measure of revenge for shocking defeats in the 1999 semifinals and 2007 quarterfinals.
After containing a strong start by France, the All Blacks scored three spectacular tries in 11 minutes to Adam Thomson, Cory Jane and Israel Dagg to lead 19-0 within 20 minutes.
"We realized we had to take a step up this week,'' McCaw said. "Against the French, obviously from history, we knew they would be a good team. We had to absorb a fair bit early on but I was proud of the way the boys kept at it, and when we got our opportunity we put points on the board. In big test matches that's what you've got to do, so very happy.''
After fulltime, the French were paid respect with an honor guard off the field by the All Blacks, but they have to regroup quickl. Les Bleus need to beat Tonga in a week to be certain of not missing the playoffs for the first time. Moreover, no team has won the World Cup after a loss in the pool round.
"I have a feeling of great regret, notably about the first half when we conceded three tries in 15 minutes due to gross defensive errors,'' France coach Marc Lievremont said.
"After starting well, but with no points on board, we let the All Blacks dictate the match. We made schoolboy errors.''
The All Blacks sewed up the outcome by halftime, when they led 19-3, thanks to a pitiless scrum, sharp lineout, and a fierce defense led by McCaw. The New Zealanders made France miss 13 tackles, some of them far too easily.
Dagg would earn a pair for the second time in two Cup matches, and Sonny Bill Williams added the fifth try. Dan Carter, back after an injury like McCaw, was at his best. He made five of seven kicks.
Midfielder Maxime Mermoz and replacement flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc consoled France with second-half touchdowns.
The start lived up to the hype as France put New Zealand under sustained pressure. But running into rugged tackles, the French resorted to kicks without success. Morgan Parra's drop goal attempt rebounded off the right post, then scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili's cross-kick was caught by fullback Damien Traille, but he landed on his back on top of Jane and spilled the ball forward.
New Zealand earned the first penalty from a scrum, when French tighthead Luc Ducalcon was popped up by All Blacks loosehead Tony Woodcock.
Inside center Ma'a Nonu shimmied past France captain Thierry Dusautoir and Traille, then Carter flicked to Dagg to put Thomson clear into the left corner. The left-footed Carter couldn't convert from the left touchline, but he could from the right sideline to cap Jane's try.
Lock Sam Whitelock panicked the French when he charged down Yachvili then Parra in the same move, then winger Richard Kahui stopped Traille dead in his tracks, and turned over the ball. That led to a lineout and a brilliant set-piece move.
Whitelock cleared ball off the top of a lineout to scrumhalf Piri Weepu, who popped up to Jane. The winger, who was dizzied when Traille fell on him, scooted around the back of the lineout, cut to the sideline, fended off opposite Maxime Medard too easily and was in. Jane was replaced about 20 minutes later.
Four minutes after Jane's try, Carter dummied through the line from 30 meters out and Dagg was on his inside with another clear run to the line.
Just before the break, Yachvili drew a penalty for a cynical dive under a loose arm from Jerome Kaino, and kicked it over from 39 meters.
Halftime was no relief for France.
The All Blacks surged from the restart, and Williams, who had replaced Jane just before the break, offloaded to Carter who swept the attack into the France 22. Off ruck ball, Dagg danced inside Lionell Nallet and outside Jean-Baptiste Poux for his second try of the match and New Zealand's bonus point. Carter converted and added a penalty for 29-3.
Out of nowhere, France got a try when inside center Mermoz intercepted Carter from 45 meters out and ran in untouched for his first test try, then Carter bombed a try soon after when he passed behind replacement scrumhalf Andy Ellis.
Carter coolly added a drop goal, but France replied with Trinh-Duc's try off a quick tap penalty. But this was New Zealand's night and it had the last say when backup lock Ali Williams caught the restart on the run, and the attack swept to the right to give Williams the overlap and try in the corner.
New Zealand 37 (Israel Dagg 2, Adam Thomson, Cory Jane, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Dan Carter 3 conversions, penalty, drop goal), France 17 (Maxime Mermoz, Francois Trinh-Duc tries; Dimitri Yachvili 2 conversions, penalty). HT: 19-3.