All Blacks rely on first-half demolition to see off France after spirited comeback

New Zealand beat France 38-18 for an 11th straight time, scoring four first-half tries and withstanding a strong comeback after the break on Saturday.

France has not beaten New Zealand at home since winning in Marseille in 2000, and anywhere since an away success in Dunedin in 2009.

Coach Guy Noves’ experimental side, featuring four players on debut and an inventive half-back pairing, gave the All Blacks a bit of a fright in the second half until right winger Waisake Naholo grabbed his second try of the game in the final seconds.

“We lost our discipline a little and a result of that we allowed the momentum to shift and the French were good enough to put us under pressure,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. “We gave away 11 penalties in the second half and some of them were pretty basic, like being offside.”

Noves was left stunned by a first-half showing he considered inept.

“Our first half wasn’t up to the standards of an international team. We lost an enormous amount of balls, lacked aggression in the rucks and lost possession as soon as we won it in the lineout,” Noves said. “We needed an electroshock at halftime.”

New Zealand routed France 62-13 in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and another hammering looked odds-on after hooker Dane Coles, Naholo, centre Ryan Crotty and flanker Sam Cane scored tries — all converted by fly-half Beauden Barrett— to lead 31-5 at halftime.

“It would have been a disaster if we hadn’t reacted at half-time,” Noves said.

The All Blacks preform the Haka before kick-off (Getty)

France’s only first-half riposte was a try from right winger Teddy Thomas. But after receiving a penalty try conceded by Sonny Bill Williams, who was sin-binned at the start of the second half, the French battled gamely back to 31-18 with half an hour left.

Thomas then had a try ruled out in the right corner, after a video review, as the momentum briefly threatened to turn under drizzly skies at Stade de…

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