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Shaky All Blacks hold off France in Auckland

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New Zealand’s All Blacks opened their 2013 International season by coming from behind to beat France 23-13 at Eden Park in Auckland.

The All Blacks outscored France by two tries to one but they were made to work for their victory by a persistent French outfit.

France gave the All Blacks an early scare when they went out to a 0-7 lead after a try by Wesley Fofana and although the All Blacks responded with two tries the visitors never gave up but their errors cost them several scoring opportunities which could have given them the lead.

The victory extends the All Blacks winning streak at Eden Park to 30 matches
over the last in 19 years including their 8-7 result against the same opposition
at the ground two years ago.

France, the last team to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park in 1994, signalled
their intent to repeat that victory when Fofana scored the opening try
after Florian Fritz had waltzed past Ma’a Nonu.

But in front of a full house of 45,561, the All Blacks came back with two tries
in five minutes late in the half to turn with a 17-10 lead

The second half saw just two All Blacks penalties and one to France, with both
sides committing basic errors.

In a game that never reached great heights, multiple mistakes led to frequent
turnovers and tries went begging at both ends of the field in the second spell.

The All Blacks had the better of the opening exchanges until French captain
Thierry Dusautoir engineered the move that led to Fofana’s try, as he turned
over All Blacks skipper Kieran Read.

Maxime Machenaud made no mistake with the straight forward conversion while
All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden, filling in for the injured Dan Carter missed
two early close-range penalties.

But he was on target with his third attempt, from 39 metres, after a few words
from regular kicking ace Carter who delivered the kicking tee.

The All Blacks then took the lead with back-to-back tries. The first, a 60-metre
effort finished by Aaron Smith after a Camille Lopez box kick went astray and
Ben Smith launched the counter-attack.

Nonu featured in the second try when he beat Lopez and fed Aaron Smith who
put Sam Cane over under the posts.

Lopez slotted a penalty early after the resumption to reduce the gap to four
points at 17-13.

But stout All Blacks defence, and the slow pace of replacement scrum-half Jean-Marc
Doussain, denied France a chance of regaining the lead with a try when they
battered the All Blacks line for several minutes midway through the half.

In the closing stages, Cruden landed two further penalties for the All Blacks,
who never seriously looked like scoring a third try.

Final Score New Zealand 23 (17) France 13 (10)

Scorers

New Zealand
Tries – A.Smith, S.Cane
Pen – Cruden 3
Con – Cruden 2
Drop –

France
Tries – Fofana
Pen – Machenaud, Lopez
Con – Machenaud
Drop –

Attendance : 45,561

Match Officials
Referee
: Wayne Barnes (ENG)

Teams

New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Ben Afeaki, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barret

France: Yoann Huget; Adrien Plante, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Thierry Dusautoir (capt); Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina; Luc Ducalcon, Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo

Replacements: Gui

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