New Zealand complete comfortable victory over France in Wellington
Last Updated: 08/06/13 6:25pm
First half tries from Aaron Smith and Sam Cane saw New Zealand through to a comfortable 23-13 victory against France in Wellington on Saturday.
The All Blacks started on the back foot as Ma'a Nonu's defensive ability was exposed when Floran Fritz made a devastating break. Fritz offloaded to Wesley Fofana who completed a scintillating phase of play as France established an early lead.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden got New Zealand on the scoreboard via the kicking tee mid-way through the period when Adrien Plante was adjudged offside.
As the All Blacks found their stride a faltering French defence allowed winger Ben Smith to escape four challenges before he found Aaron Smith to give the home side the lead.
Maxime Machenaud levelled proceedings with a three-pointer but parity was short-lived as All Black centre Nonu burst his way through three tackles to find flanker Cane who touched down beneath the posts. Cruden added the extras with ease as New Zealand took a 17-10 lead into the interval.
The All Blacks made a slack start to the second period with two penalties conceded in quick succession, the second of which French fly-half Camille Lopez slotted between the posts to reduce the deficit to four.
New Zealand remained resilient in defence as they faced a sustained period of pressure from France, who failed to capitalise on time spent in All Black territory.
France's lack of discipline at the breakdown proved to be costly yet again as Cruden widened the gap between the sides to seven points.
With the visitors unable to break through the New Zealand defence, Cruden went on to dissect the uprights twice more as the hosts eased their way to a 10-point victory.
Phillipe Saint-Andre's side must find a more clinical edge if they are to overturn the All Blacks when the pair meet again next Saturday.
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NZ v France, first Test 2013
The best images from the first Test at Eden Park
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen was unhappy with his side's "ugly" performance in the 23-13 victory over France.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has told his side not to underestimate France despite their poor RBS Six Nations.