Well this wasn’t the result most Kiwis wanted; however by all accounts the French are very happy. To be fair to the game, the French played very well and deserved the win. For the most part they took the chances that came their way and in the last 20 minutes they applied a huge amount of pressure that paid off for a handsome 27 – 13 win against the ABs. While the first half was quite even both on the scoreboard and in the possession stakes, the ABs seemed to be off their game and were making a lot of unforced errors that the French capitalised on. But for an exceptional defensive tackle on Damian Penaud by Richie Mo’unga the French could have been well ahead, which was a big comeback from a pretty crap penalty that didn’t go into touch. In fact the statistics from the game were quite even. for example the ABs turned the ball over 16 times and the French 14. The difference being that the French managed to make something out of the AB turnovers while the ABs didn’t seem to be able to do the same.
The kicking in general was pretty poor from the ABs, the box kicks were either not far enough to gain ground or not short enough to be competed properly, and then when they were competed the ABs technique was off. Jordan, in particular was poor in this regard and after a lazy collision, where he didn’t jump and took a French player out in the air he received a well deserved YC. While the defence of the ABs was very good while he was off, the French upped the tempo and repeatedly tried to expose the gap in the defence that would have sucked plenty off juice out of the players who had to cover for him. This showed in the last quarter of the game when the ABs faded while the French, on a roll and winning just kept the tempo of the game up.
However all is not doom and gloom for the ABs. They also showed a lot of good attack (until yet again they lost the ball in contact) and if they had remained patient and held onto the ball a bit more they may have come away with points. They found a lot of space out wide that they used well at times and there was some good play from individuals in both attack and defence that could have garnered a lot better results but for the continual mistakes that players who should be better but weren’t kept making. For me, if they show a little more patience, manage to hang onto the ball and keep the game tempo up they can still win the big games.
While both teams had players out, and you could say the French were hit harder with this, the changes seemed to affect the ABs more. I think the biggest game changer was the selection of the AB team. The ABs lost Cane late on Friday and selected a lock, who had never played there in a test, at 6 and moved Papalii to 7. Vaa’i is a good lock but he looked lost at 6 and the balance in the loose trio was markedly missing.
The Game Changer
I don’t think there was any particular game changing moment as such as I think that the French were just better. However, I do think a huge game changer was the effect the substitutions had when they came on. The French game didn’t seem to change and their substitutes fell seamlessly into the game plan and continued the good work. On the other hand, apart from Havili, the AB changes seemed to struggle both to inject themselves into the game and to provide any significant impact.
The Man of the Match/Standout Player
While Dupont continued with some very good play at times, I actually thought he was a bit quiet. For me the French won this game in the forwards with some aggressive defence and some very good attack. My stand out players for the French were their lock Cameron Woki and No 8 Gregory Alldritt. Both of them gave the French a lot of forward momentum and some great defence that rattled the ABs.
For the ABs I thought both Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett played and worked together well, and both Whitelock and Scott Barrett worked hard in both attack and defence. However, other than that the team was a bit average.
All Blacks: 13