At the Stade de France
The Blues are there. Dominated in the first period... but ahead at the break (9-8 MT), the players of the XV of France raised their voice after the break in order to win against New Zealand (27-13), this Friday, at the Stade de France, during the opening match of the Rugby World Cup. The French will challenge Uruguay next Thursday (9 p.m.), at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, during the second day of the first round, in Group A.
The Blues therefore began their World Cup with an exploit: inflicting on the All Blacks their first defeat in a group match since the creation of the competition in 1987. Their incredible series of 31 victories ended Friday evening in a Stade de France overheated. Between heatwave and incandescent public. The fervor of their supporters helped the Blues to hold on to finally overturn a long-undecided opening match. After the break, however, the French players took a big breath of air conditioning. Winger Mark Talea had just scored his second try, once again taking advantage of the largesse of his supposed bodyguard, Damian Penaud, but also of that of the South African referee, Jaco Peyper, not asking for the video while the decisive pass was clearly forward...
In short, in the 43rd minute, New Zealand led 13 to 9 and the nature of the match - domination of the Blacks, excitement of the Whites - began to tense up the Stade de France. But the French, lectured by Fabien Galthié during their visit to the locker room, finally showed themselves to be enterprising. In the 52nd minute, Richie Mu'unga performed a miracle to prevent Damian Penaud from flattening. It took more to discourage the winger who, four minutes later, was served by a beautiful jump pass from Matthieu Jalibert to put the XV of France back on pole (16-13, 56th). One blow too many for the All Blacks. Will Jordan received a yellow card (58th) for a tackle in the air on Thomas Ramos. The latter took advantage of this to continue to rack up the points (17 in the end, at 6/8) and definitely widen the gap. The Toulouse full-back was denied a try in the 75th minute before giving way to Melvyn Jaminet. Who avenged him by flattening shortly after (78th) to give scale to the triumph of the Blues (27-13). The first in a series?
The first half had been strange. Played at a false rhythm between a lot (too much) kicking and the cool-down breaks, decreed by World Rugby in order to preserve the health of the players. It's true that it was so hot in the evening at the Stade de France that you couldn't put an iguana outside. Gregory Alldritt's rapidly scarlet cheeks were a good indicator of the violence of the effort. However, the Blues, dressed in white for the occasion, had suffered a cold shock from the start. A defense with absent subscribers on a full-hearted breakthrough from Rieko Ioane, a few desperate saves behind but the last one a precise kick from the artist Beauden Barrett picked up by Mark Telea for an All Blacks try after 90 seconds of play. Antoine Dupont and his partners had the merit of not panicking, of slowly gaining the upper hand (notably in a closed scrum thanks to the power of Uini Atonio) and of taking advantage of the scoring talents of Thomas Ramos to lead at the break 9 to 8 .
A flattering score because the New Zealanders had shown themselves to be the most enterprising, obtaining two or three trying opportunities when Fabien Galthié's men were struggling to approach the opposing 22 meters. For 40 minutes concluded without the slightest opportunity. And the persistence of a worrying evil that has appeared in recent months: the defensive problems of a XV of France having missed no less than 17 tackles during this first half!
After the definitive withdrawal of Romain Ntamack, the more or less long-term injuries of Jonathan Danty, Cyril Baille and Paul Willemse, the Blues have lost yet another player. Julien Marchand twisted in pain during a tackle, his left leg being caught overhang. The Toulouse hooker tried to stay on the pitch before quickly giving in, replaced in the 12th minute by his club partner, Peato Mauvaka. Then seen crying on the bench, the worst is to be feared for one of the executives of the XV of France, the bridgehead of the spine of the team. On the All Blacks side, the bad news came during the warm-up. Affected, captain Sam Cane was forced to withdraw even before the match.