All Blacks wrap up series on 500th test

New Zealand secure a remarkable 378th victory in 500 internationals to give them an unassailable lead over France.

    All Blacks wrap up series on 500th test
    A capacity crowd of 21,000 braved wet conditions in Christchurch to witness All Blacks 500th international [GETTY]

    The All Blacks celebrated their 500th test with a thumping 30-0 win over old rivals France which secured victory in their three-game series on Saturday.

    An astute kicking game laid the groundwork and the All Blacks powered home after an early try to Julian Savea and two crowd-pleasing scores in the second half from Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett.

    New Zealand's 378th victory in 500 internationals, which makes them one of the most successful teams in all sports, follows last week's 23-13 win in Auckland and gives them an unassailable 2-0 lead with a game to spare.

    "I'm extremely happy," said All Blacks captain Kieran Read.

    "The effort we put in in defence really showed the character we have got. It's not easy on a (wet) night like this and the boys really stepped up."

    The home team led 10-0 at half-time and added 20 points in the second period, while France, who ran New Zealand close last week, finished scoreless against them for the first time.

    "Unfortunately we couldn't score any points tonight. They played very well with great defence," said French skipper Thierry Dusautoir.

    "We're hoping to do the maximum to fight back in order to win that one test. There's one test left so we're going to do the maximum to win."

    Nullifying

    The renowned flair of the French made them a threat when they had an opportunity to run with the ball, but their opportunities were few as they were continually forced into a defensive game by an All Blacks aerial bombardment.

    All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had demanded an improvement on the stumbling first test win in Auckland a week ago, and the team took notice.

    Before a capacity crowd of 21,000 who braved chilly, wet conditions, they were a far more settled unit the second time around against their 2011 World Cup final opponents.

    Read and Liam Messam lead an effective nullifying of the French strength at the breakdown, and the scrum held its own despite the addition of Nicolas Mas into the French front row.

    But it was the kicking game, so wayward a week ago, that produced the result as France were kept pinned deep in their own half.

    Their best opportunity to breach the All Blacks defence came early in the second half when a series of pick-and-goes, and half-breaks by Wesley Fofana and Yohann Huget, took them through 17 phases inside the All Blacks 22.

    However, when the move eventually broke down, the All Blacks showed their game was not all about kicking and triggered a length-of-the-field counter-attack that ended with a try to Ben Smith under the posts.

    But it was their kicking that engineered their first try, in the third minute of the game when they drilled France into a corner.

    Sam Whitelock stole the defensive lineout from debutant Bernard le Roux and a delicately weighted grubber kick from centre Ma'a Nonu allowed Savea to scamper over for the try.

    Despite a superior territory advantage the All Blacks had to wait 15 minutes, and at a rare moment when they were inside their own 22, to set up their next points.

    A Frederic Michalak penalty attempt bounced off the upright into the arms of Read, playing his 50th test, and the All Blacks captain swatted aside tacklers in a 50-metre run upfield.

    When he was lowered, a Cruden kick took the All Blacks up to the line where the desperately defending French conceded a penalty which the flyhalf converted into three points.

    SOURCE: AFP


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