Paris — New Zealand coach Steve Hansen admitted to feeling frustrated despite the All Blacks romping to a 38-18 victory in France on Saturday and scoring their 2,000th try.
The tourists were at their rampant best in the first 40 minutes, running in four tries and threatening a record victory over the French when they led 31-5 at the break. But they were kept scoreless until the final move of the match in the second period, not getting close to the record 61-10 victory achieved in Wellington 10 years ago.
"We lost our discipline a little [in the second half]. As a result of that we allowed the momentum to shift and the French were good enough to take that opportunity and put us under pressure," said Hansen.
"Having said that, I’m happy with the way we fought our way through it and we scored a good try at the end. We scored enough points in the first half to get the job done."
But with what on paper looked like their hardest November Test negotiated with a convincing victory — ahead of trips to Scotland and Italy — Hansen was not going to be too tough on his players.
"It’s very difficult in sporting occasions for any team or person to hold the momentum for the whole duration of the contest," he said. "Once we lost momentum, the French team got confidence and put us under pressure, so it’s all part of that process of trying to get better.
"We gave away 11 penalties I think in the second half and some pretty basic ones from just being offside. Those things allowed our opponents to get back into the game."
He also lamented the fact that cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams seemingly didn’t know the rules when conceding a penalty try and getting sin-binned for batting the ball intentionally out of play from inside the All Blacks’ try area.
"He doesn’t know the rules because he was playing Rugby League," said Hansen. "In League rules, you’re allowed to smash the ball over the line."
Williams’s Rugby League skills, however, created a try in the first half when Ryan Crotty pounced on Williams’s grubber kick to notch the 2,000th All Blacks try in international rugby. "I had no idea, that’s pretty cool," said Crotty of his landmark.
"It was a pretty nice kick he put through for me. I didn’t really have to do too much so I give him a pat on the back for that."
France coach Guy Noves said his team’s second-half showing had merely prevented a disaster at the Stade de France.
"The first half was very feeble. We prepared to play a top-level match, that didn’t happen. It would have been a disaster if there hadn’t been this awakening at half-time. We blame ourselves and we’ll work on this in the week to try to find the reason we started this match with so little aggression, which prevented us from competing."
Captain Guilhem Guirado said: "We feel we reacted and showed a lot of pride. We showed courage and rancour but we didn’t manage to convert all our chances."
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