Auckland (AFP) – The All Blacks scored 44 unanswered points in the second half as they came from behind to hammer France 52-11 in the opening game of their three-Test series on Saturday.
Rieko Ioane’s double was among eight tries for the world champions, who were 8-11 down at half-time before the game-changing introduction of forward Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Seven of New Zealand’s tries came after the man mountain, who was not even on the All Blacks’ radar a few weeks ago, came on five minutes into the second period to assert much-needed scrum dominance.
Tu’inukuafe’s introduction coincided with a marginal yellow card for French lock Paul Gabrillagues for a hit on Ryan Crotty, at which point the floodgates opened.
Codie Taylor, Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape all scored tries in the second period, along with Ioane’s double, as the All Blacks stretched their Eden Park unbeaten run to 41 games.
“Did we think we were going to score that many points? No, but I’m pretty happy with the way we ended up playing,” Hansen said.
“It was our first game of the season and we don’t want to get too excited about where we are at. We’ve got two more Test matches.”
Hansen did believe the All Blacks received a lucky break with the yellow card, saying he didn’t think Gabrillagues’s tackle deserved time in the sin bin.
French coach Jacques Brunel, while accepting his side were outplayed in the second half, would not comment on the lock’s high shot.
But he was incensed that Sam Cane escaped punishment for a similar incident which saw Remy Grosso taken to hospital for a check-up.
“I think that was illegal,” he said.
At times it was an intensely tough game and French fullback Maxime Medard will have nightmares about his last-ditch attempt to block Laumape when the All Blacks replacement charged at the line.
Nine years ago, Medard was the French hero with a match-winning try when they beat the All Blacks in Dunedin, but this time he will be remembered for being sent flying as Laumape ran through him.
It epitomised a brutal turnaround by the All Blacks after France had claimed the better of the first half to hold a three-point lead at the turn.
– Game of two halves –
Props Dany Priso and Uini Atonio were in the thick of the early action as France had the upper hand in the scrums and mauls, while their backs were willing to run at every opportunity.
The All Blacks moved the ball from side to side as well as employing long-range grubber kicks and short chips over the backline, all to no avail.
Left wing Grosso was gifted the opening try when Ben Smith swooped on the ball at the back of an unprotected French ruck.
His clearing pass, which would have put Ioane in the clear, was instead intercepted by Grosso who had an easy run to the line.
After an exchange of penalties by Beauden Barrett and Morgan Parra, all three Barrett brothers — the first trio of siblings to start a game for the All Blacks — featured in an equalising try.
Scott and Jordie Barrett created space for Ryan Crotty to take the ball to the line, where Beauden Barrett finished the move.
A booming 51-metre penalty by Parra lifted France to 11-8, and the All Blacks were unable to draw level again until the introduction of Tu’inukuafe early in the second half.
In his first scrum, the French pack was driven back and in the following rucks and mauls the impact was equally evident.
His first scrum effort produced a penalty for Beauden Barrett to level the scores as the ruthless All Blacks scored 32 points in 20 minutes.
Beauden Barrett, having an off-night with the boot, contributed two conversions and a penalty.
France belatedly pressured the All Blacks line in the closing 10 minutes but Ioane snaffled an intercept pass for his second try, before Ardie Savea barged over on the stroke of fulltime.