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All Blacks down France in Paris

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6 days ago Angelo Risso

After steamrolling their opponents for much of 2016, the All Blacks have spent the past two Tests of the year finding a new way to win - brutal efficiency.

The world champions closed off a near-perfect 2016 campaign with a 24-19 win over France in Paris, nabbing three tries to one despite considerable French pressure.

Saturday's victory gives New Zealand their 13th win from 14 games in the calendar year, impressive for a side that lost 818 caps after last year's World Cup win.

The win over France wasn't pretty, but like in Dublin last week, the All Blacks soaked up the inventive French attack and sprung forward with counter-punches.

It was a side of the team seldom seen during New Zealand's stroll to the June series trophy, Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup.

It also suggested the side were on-song despite being just 80 minutes from their summer holidays.

Playmaker Beauden Barrett was again central to victory, setting up the opening try with a lofted cross-field kick and running nearly 100 metres for the second.

"To stand up under pressure late in the season when fatigue is a big factor, we're very proud of our team," coach Steve Hansen said.

"It felt like the old French rugby team, they wanted to run the ball at every opportunity."

Faultlessly absorbing early French pressure, the All Blacks sprung to life in the sixth minute with a try from nowhere to stand-in fullback Israel Dagg.

Collecting the ball from the back of a maul, Barrett passed to Julian Savea, who laid off for Dagg to scoot over.

A 15th-minute Barrett penalty pushed the gap into double digits, but the deficit didn't deter Les Bleus from their exciting style, with Virimi Vakatawa going close on several occasions.

Despite having 61 per cent possession, France could only gain a pair of Maxime Machenaud penalty goals for their efforts, heading into the break trailing 10-6.

The match appeared to take on a similar complexion as the second half began, until Barrett snatched a 44th-minute intercept to run the length of the field and score.

A third French penalty to Serin Baptiste followed, but the All Blacks began to pull away in the 58th minute when prop Charlie Faumuina barged over.

France hit back, taking advantage of a quickly-taken penalty on the All Blacks' five-metre line to cross through No.8 Louis Picamoles.

Another Baptiste three-pointer set the match up for a grandstand finish, but the French couldn't break through and the All Blacks wound down the clock to secure victory.

"We're a young group, there's 20 players that weren't at last year's World Cup, 11 new All Blacks and not too many of them have played against northern hemisphere rugby," Hansen said.

"We'll go away and enjoy tonight, our break, and come back and be a better side for these four tour weeks."

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