Romain Ntamack was the epitome of French composure as he dazzled against the All Blacks on his crowning night… it would be no surprise to see him starring against the same opponents in a World Cup final in two years
- France beat New Zealand 40-25, their first win over them in 12 years
- France led 24-6 at the break after tries by Peato Mauvaka and Romain Ntamack
- The All Blacks fought back to trail by two points with 20 minutes remaining
- But Ntamack and Damian Penaud went over to secure a historic win on Saturday
As they had all night, France and New Zealand met head-on around halfway. Neither took a backward step. Both sides continued their laps of honour. Both received standing ovations after an unforgettable tussle in Paris.
Eventually, Antoine Dupont hoisted the Dave Gallaher Trophy aloft. It was an ominous image for the rest of rugby.
The next time these sides meet here, a much greater prize awaits, after all.
Romain Ntamack celebrates after scoring for France against New Zealand on Saturday
On this evidence, France and New Zealand could bring the house down on opening and closing night of the 2023 World Cup.
Depleted though these whitewash-All Blacks were after three months away, this win – France’s biggest ever over New Zealand – was a seismic statement.
And yet how different the landscape looked heading into the final quarter, when New Zealand – who trailed 24-6 at half-time – were within two and stalking their prey. ‘We were scared,’ Dupont admitted. ‘But we kept cool heads.’
No one more than Romain Ntamack. Never more vividly than on 62 minutes, when the fly-half gathered the ball behind his own line. As All Blacks swarmed, with his back to play, Ntamack evaded Brad Weber, brushed off Richie Mo’unga and glided past Barrett – all before crossing his try line.
Within 15 seconds, France were deep in New Zealand territory. Within a minute the tide had turned.
‘An incredible moment,’ coach Fabien Galthie said. ‘It felt like Romain and the other players supporting him said: “No, this is it: we’re going to take control again.”’
Ntamack was the standout performer as France ended a 14-match losing run to the All Blacks
Ntamack was only 18 months old when, in 2000, France last beat New Zealand on home soil. This was the 22-year-old’s crowning night. Even before his daring escape mission, he had finished a brilliant try.
‘When you beat the All Blacks, you become a different player,’ manager Raphael Ibanez said last week. England and Co will hope Ntamack is the exception to that rule. To think he is younger than Marcus Smith. To think he had spent the autumn at inside centre. To think how much more he – and France – have to grow.
Hooker Peato Mauvaka, scorer of two first-half tries, ended the night in tears. Prop Cyril Baille admitted: ‘We had trouble understanding what had happened… beating the All Blacks leaves a mark.’
A second successive defeat will scar Ian Foster’s side, too.
For Galthie, however, this victory alone won’t make France World Cup contenders. ‘It is how we prepared over the past two years that makes us candidates,’ he insisted. ‘It’s a way of life, this result is only the consequence of that.’
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