Bad records follow one another for the All Blacks. After conceding the heaviest defeat in their history two weeks ago (35-7 against South Africa), the men in black lost a World Cup group match for the first time in their history. End of a series of 31 consecutive successes. The Blues won 27-13 in an effervescent Stade de France.
The All Blacks start the match on the ground. Mark Telea crashes 92 seconds into the game, the fastest try in history in a World Cup opening match. The two teams will then measure each other and go blow for blow. The Blues return to the locker room with a slight advantage.
“The first half was really positive, promises Aaron Smith after the match. We entered the field with the right intentions, we moved the ball and we scored quickly. We entered their 22 a few times, and if we had managed these situations a little better, we would have fallen into the lead at half-time.
After the break, Mark Telea scored twice (43rd) and allowed his team to get back in front. But the New Zealanders will make too many mistakes: penalized twelve times. “Will [Jordan] was a little clumsy on two aerial actions and the second didn't help us, breathes coach Ian Foster. The yellow card (57th) came at a bad time against a team that likes to exploit the back of the field. France knew how to take advantage of it, but we were quite disciplined in the first half.
After the hour mark, the All Blacks gradually collapsed. Melvyn Jaminet, who entered a few seconds before, even scored the winning try (78th) for the XV of France. “A disappointing evening, for sure. The most important thing is our discipline, we conceded a few too many penalties,” says second row Sam Whitelock.
New Zealanders touched but not sunk, who want to focus on the positive. "We never managed to put pressure on them as the game progressed," regrets one-night captain Ardie Savea. It didn't want to smile tonight, that's all. We were dangerous when we had the ball, but we fought ourselves, we didn't show enough patience and precision on a technical level. We have to pull ourselves together and keep moving forward. We lost the battle tonight, but we still have the rage to win.
Very classy and fair play all the way, the All Blacks also wanted to salute the superiority of France, carried by an excited public. “It was a bumpy match, but we have to take our hats off to them, insists Ian Foster. It was a hell of a World Cup opener and I congratulate France. I think they were the best team of the evening. Now we have to find another way out.” An atmosphere hailed by a double best player in the world. “The French were able to take advantage of the wave of support at home, smiles Beauden Barrett. The atmosphere was fantastic and it's a great way to start the tournament at a home World Cup.”
In an unusual position after this inaugural defeat, the men of the Pacific stayed the course. No question of changing goals. “Our goal is to win the tournament,” repeats Ian Foster after the match. Next meeting Friday against Namibia.