PARIS – France laid down an early marker with a convincing 27-13 victory over New Zealand in searing heat in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup in front of 78 690 passionate spectators at the Stade de France on Friday night.
New Zealand – who lost their captain Sam Cane with an injury before the game – has now suffered the ignominy of becoming the first All Black side to lose a pool game in a World Cup Rugby tournament.
The three-time World Champions got off to a sensational start when left winger Mark Telea scored within the first two minutes. Outside centre Rieko Ioane made a searing break through the midfield.
From the ensuing tap penalty from scrumhalf Aaron Smith, flyhalf Richie Mo’unga launched a trademark cross kick with a penalty advantage which Telea superbly controlled and dotted down in the corner.
Mo’unga missed the conversion from the touchline to give the All Blacks an early five-point lead.
From the kick-off France hooker Julien Marchand effected a brilliant turnover in the Kiwis 22 m area which allowed fullback Thomas Ramos to kick an easy three pointer.
Both sides started creeping into their shells as if one was waiting for the other to make a mistake.
For the next 15 minutes both sides were circumspect in their approach with lots of kicking for territory and nobody prepared to have a go.
After twenty minutes the French took the lead for the first time when Ramos slotted his second penalty after the All Blacks infringed in a scrum.
Six minutes later Mo’unga succeeded with another penalty to take his side into the lead again. At this stage South African born referee Jaco Peyper blew for the teams to take a water break.
After play restarted and another superb penalty kick from Ramos saw the French taking a 9-8 lead.
Ramos however, missed his next attempt. This left the French going into half-time with a slender lead.
The All Blacks started the second half just like the first – like a house on fire – when Telea scored his second try. Fullback Beauden Barrett threw a long pass out to Telea. The ball bounced perfectly for the winger. He raced through and dived over to score in the corner.
The replay showed a possible forward pass which outraged the home crowd.
The referee curiously did not refer the try to the TMO which was at least worth a second look. The try was awarded with New Zealand taking the lead after the water stoppage.
The home-side was rewarded for adventurous play when the ball was swung from a scrum and then shifted wide to Damian Penaud. The big winger just had to collect and fall over the line. Ramos added the extras from the touchline to take the score 14-13.
The turning point in the game came when Kiwi winger Will Jordan was rightly yellow carded for clattering into a Frenchman rising to collect a kick.
Ramos who was solid as a rock in the last line of defence for the home side punished the men in black with five penalties and one conversion for a personal tally of 17 points.
Replacement Melvyn Jaminet’s try in the dying minutes of the second half was the final nail in the coffin of coach Ian Foster’s charges.
France – tries: Damian Penaud, Melvyn Jaminet. Conversion: Thomas Ramos. Penalties: Ramos (5).
New Zealand – tries: Mark Telea (2). Penalty: Richie Mo’unga.