All Blacks gain revenge in Wellington wet
All Blacks gain revenge in Wellington wet

The All Blacks have gained revenge for last week's dismal loss in Dunedin with a hard-fought 14-10 win over France in Wellington.

But the French can take some consolation in the wet at the Westpac Stadium after securing the Dave Gallaher Cup on aggregate score for the first time.

The game was played in terrible conditions at times, and good handling was at a premium as both teams struggled to cope under the high ball but fewer errors by the All Blacks and a much improved performance at the breakdown proved key.

But there were plenty of signs this All Black team has a long way to go ahead of the Tri Nations with first five-eighth Stephen Donald in particular failing to impress. His kicking simply wasn't good enough at the international level and he was found wanting at times with the ball in hand, although the swirling wind didn't help his cause.

In a scratchy opening period the All Blacks had the first opportunity to score after a wild clearing hack was picked up in an offside position by the retreating French defence, but Donald pushed the ball wide of the upright.

But with the rain and wind swirling neither team was able to exert any early domination.

Donald missed another penalty from straight out front as his poor start continued and the crowd would have been nervous at the sight of the All Black scrum being pushed back once more.

But having been outmuscled by the French last week the All Blacks clearly weren't going to settle for second best at the breakdown and finally took a deserved lead in the 26th minute.

The All Blacks were dominating the rucks and forcing turnover ball and they started to exert control. A rampant Keven Mealamu took New Zealand close to the goal-line and the French were on the retreat.

The ball came out the back of the ruck to run-on debutant Tanerau Latimer and he sent Rokocoko clear with a great pass.

The flying winger didn't quite have the space to get to the line himself but had presence of mind enough to flick a pass to Nonu in support and the Hurricane touched down.

The All Blacks then came close to scoring again almost straight away. The All Blacks broke right and Donald threw a beautiful wrap around pass with Mealamu and Cory Jane went over the line, only for the video referee to call the ball touch in goal.

The composed French team of last week looked to have stayed in Dunedin, with too many dropped balls, kicks straight to touch and even the reliable Julien Dupuy pushing a couple of penalties wide as they failed to make any inroads into the ABs defence.

And with the half-time hooter approaching Donald finally found his range with the boot to extend the lead, nailing the penalty after the French failed to release at the breakdown.

But if the All Blacks thought the game was won at half-time they were in for a short sharp shock in the fifth minute of the second half with a stunning try for the visitors.

Winger Cedric Heymans got the ball in his own half and looked to have little room to work with. But the French wizard broke poor efforts from Jane and Mils Muliani and then showed some great footwork near the line to bring the French right back into it. Dupuy converted.

But if the All Blacks were shocked they didn't show it and almost hit back straight away but great defending on the goal-line kept Neemia Tialata out and the ball was cleared once more.

Donald stretched the lead in the 55th minute with three points from the right touchline after a period of New Zealand pressure drew a penalty.

The French should have taken the lead midway through the second half when the ever dangerous Heymans flew down the left wing and put a great kick through, but Vincent Clerc was tackled by Brad Thorn and dropped the ball when it looked easier to score.

Luke McAlister, on to replace the ineffective Donald, pushed the lead out to seven points with 14 minutes left in the game, but Dimitri Yachvili replied straight away to keep the French in the mix.

The All Blacks had a chance to make sure of the win with two minutes left on the clock, but the ball bounced too high for the flying Rokocoko to gather and the French held on to lose the battle but win the war.

New Zealand 14
Tries: Ma'a Nonu Penalties: Stephen Donald (2), Luke McAlister

France 10
Tries: Cedric Heymans Penalty: Dimitri Yachvili Conversions: Julien Dupuy

H/T: 8-0

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