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All Blacks hold on for France win

New Zealand claimed a 23-13 victory over France in the first Test of the series at Eden Park.

Wesley Fofana scored an early try for the visitors but it was two scores in the final 10 minutes of the first half from Aaron Smith and Sam Cane that tilted the game back towards New Zealand. The boot of Aaron Cruden also provided 13 points as the All Blacks held on for a scrappy win after a tryless second half.

France utilised the experience of Thierry Dusautoir and Louis Picamoles to create the first try nine minutes into the game. Picamoles created a turnover and the ball found Dusautoir in the backline in broken play.

He fed outside-centre Florian Fritz, who found space out wide on a curving run then linked with his flying centres partner Fofana who powered over the line. Cruden reduced the deficit as he put New Zealand on the board at the third attempt.

France still found it difficult to get out of their own half, however, and when a 32nd-minute kick was launched to full-back Israel Dagg on the New Zealand 10-metre line, he took the kick superbly and turned in the tackle. When the ball emerged it came quickly to right wing Ben Smith and he decided to go for the gap on the outside of Dusautoir.

He sped into space with the French defence absent and looked inside to find Aaron Smith in support - and he ran in the try to give the All Blacks the lead, but - when New Zealand strayed offside - Maxime Machenaud landed the penalty to tie things up.

The teams were not to be level for long though as Ma'a Nonu raced onto the ball and linked with Aaron Smith, who looked likely to score a second before passing to Cane who went over. Cruden added the conversion to give the All Blacks took a 17-10 lead at half-time.

Camille Lopez landed a penalty to narrow the scores six minutes into the second half and the visitors then had a chance to score with a succession of pick and goes at the New Zealand line - but the defence held.

Cruden landed a 59th-minute penalty to extend the lead to seven points before the French wasted another opportunity.

Plante broke the defence and fed to Fritz inside but a certain try was lost when Picamoles dropped the ball three metres out from the unprotected All Blacks' line. Cruden finished the scoring with his third penalty with eight minutes remaining.


From Belfast Telegraph