The French: game and unlucky but well beaten
By Roger Childs
It was a very even game for 50 minutes and then the referee, Luke Pearce, made an ill advised decision. He sent French prop, Paul Gabrillagues, to the sin bin for 10 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Ryan Crotty.
He should have checked with the TMO before impulsively whipping the yellow card out of his pocket.The replays showed that the tackle was fair – round the shoulders and not the neck and head.
However earlier, Remy Grosso was caught in an All Black sandwich and had to leave the field. Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Sam Cane were involved and the latter should have gone to the bin for what looked suspiciously like a swinging arm. French coach Jacques Brunel is not happy and understandably so.
Gabrillagues sending off was the game changer, because the All Blacks quickly ran in a series of tries and kept the momentum through to the end to coast home 52-11.
Tight first half
The French scored first when Remy Grosso intercepted a wayward All Black pass and ran 50 metres to score. Then a wonderful combination of Barrett magic saw the home team level: Scott put Jordie into a gap and Ryan Crotty took it on; then the ball emerged from the resulting ruck and Beauden dived over in the corner.
It was 11- 8 at half time, but a strange decision by the referee denied the All Blacks a try just before the break, but he did give them a penalty! Apparently he ruled the Aaron Smith had obstructed a would-be tackler, but in fact that player merely ran into the All Black half back from behind.
This first forty minutes saw plenty of hard graft in the forwards and enterprise in the backs from both sides. It was anybody’s game up until the controversial sending off of Gabrillagues.
The flood gates open
With France down to 14 men, the All Blacks ran in two tries and then kept the momentum going. There was some excellent passing in the backs and coming off the bench, Damian Mckenzie and Ngani Laumape provided some real punch.
Both players were rewarded with tries of high quality.
The spirit of the French was broken and in the end the home team scored eight tries and adding salt to the wound in the 79th minute, the referee missed Ardie Savea’s failure to release the ball before getting to his feet and scoring by the posts.
The French will reflect on what might have been: the referee did not do them any favours.
The All Blacks may well have lasted better regardless and the men coming off the bench all played with passion and enterprise.
The teams meet again next Saturday and a much close score is to be anticipated.