France handed a nation the result it craved as they opened their Rugby World Cup campaign on home soil by beating New Zealand 27-13 in Paris.
It was the All Blacks’ first pool-phase defeat in World Cup history and they could have few complaints.
Although the game never took off as a true spectacle at Stade de France, it was all about the result as Les Bleus prevailed through second-half tries by wing Damian Penaud and replacement Melvyn Jaminet, plus 17 points from full-back Thomas Ramos.
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Wing Mark Telea scored two tries for New Zealand, with fly-half Richie Mo’unga kicking a penalty. While New Zealand are still odds-on to secure a quarter-final place from Pool A, France’s success sent an immediate message of their world title intent.
New Zealand suffered a late injury blow when captain Sam Cane was ruled out.
The All Blacks announced just 45 minutes before kick-off at Stade de France that flanker Cane would miss the heavyweight clash, although they did not specify his injury.
Number eight Ardie Savea took over as skipper, with Dalton Papalii moving from blindside to openside flanker and Tupou Vaa’i being promoted to the starting XV.
Despite the loss of Cane, New Zealand showed no sign of it unsettling them as they went ahead after just 93 seconds when full-back Beauden Barrett’s precision kick was gathered by Telea for the opening try.
Although Ramos kicked a penalty shortly afterwards, Les Blues struggled to settle and hooker Julien Marchand was forced off injured after 13 minutes.
A second Ramos penalty nudged France ahead, but Mo’unga quickly cancelled that out ahead of a water-break as temperatures nudged 28 degrees at almost 10pm local time.
Ramos completed his penalty hat-trick 12 minutes before half-time as France claimed a 9-8 interval lead.
New Zealand began the second period with an immediate statement of intent as skipper Savea’s kick was gathered by wing Will Jordan before centre Rieko Ioane’s superb long pass found Telea, who sprinted over for his second try.
Back came France, though, when fly-half Matthieu Jalibert’s half-break set up Penaud for an outstanding try, and Ramos’ wide-angled conversion made it 16-13.
Jordan was shown a yellow card by referee Jaco Peyper for an illegal aerial challenge on Ramos, which was also referred to to the ‘bunker’ before remaining as a sin-binning only.
Ramos’ fourth successful penalty opened up a six-point gap inside the final quarter, and another successful kick seven minutes from time sealed the deal as France triumphed 27-13 on the back of Jaminet’s late touchdown.