pressure It can do strange things For teams. Even the best in the world can suddenly have difficulty executing basic skills under the weight of expectations.
On a night when the raucous, frenetic crowds at the Stade de France more than did their part, their heroes on the field often failed to do their part – certainly in the reckless, free-flowing manner we have become accustomed to over the past few years.
But one way or another, even with the talisman Antoine Dupont Be calm, France He emerged comfortably victorious against New Zealand. Barring some disaster or act of God in their remaining group matches against the trio he beat ItalyAnd Namibia and UruguayThey can now safely start turning their focus to the quarter-finals.
This 27-13 win will not live in the memory for the quality of the performance – in fact, at times, especially in the first half, France bore no resemblance to the dynamic, efficient and ruthless machine created by Fabien Galthie during this match. A four-year cycle – but perhaps their landslide victory was just a sign that they were the true champions.
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Rugby World Cup Editorial ever since South Africa against Australia In 1995 it was never destined to be a top class rugby carnival but the truth is it ended up winning All blacksTheir first ever pool stage defeat, after 31 straight wins dating back to 1987, speaks volumes about what France is capable of now.
Things might have gotten dicey when Marc Tiglia crossed white at the start of each half, but Thomas Ramos’ boot kept them connected and one moment from Mathieu Jalibert-Damien Benaud The Magic proved their efficiency before Melvyn Jamment’s late opportunism put the cherry on top and made the final margin of victory a frankly baffling 14 points.
Ask any French fan in attendance, how they were jumping up and down Freed from desire And “Na na na na”-ed enthusiastically at the final whistle if they cared about the fact that their team barely got out of third gear. You already know the answer.
There’s nothing like a match under the Friday night lights at the Stade de France, and when that match happens to be a home World Cup opener that the hosts expect to win, against a mighty All Blacks side, you get a great atmosphere. Thunderous and stunning like that.
To the untrained eye, the opening ceremony – which is of course obligatory at this type of event, whether you want it or not – was tacky, a bit awkward and very narrow in scope, but the French audience responded as if it were the Queen. He played Live Aid in 1985.
French President Emmanuel Macron was booed outside the building when he entered the stadium to give a speech, before all the French national team fans cheered. No Marseille To drown out the performance by the field choir.
This was all before the ball was angrily thrown or kicked. As soon as the match started, every decision made by referee Jaco Bieber against France was the subject of deafening boos and whistles, while an agonizing moment before half-time saw the entire crowd – from the cheap seats to the boxes – rise to their feet and scream. Jump up and down in unison while singing.
All this came despite France looking nervous on the pitch, perhaps understandably given the scale of the occasion.
It only took 93 seconds for the All Blacks to break through the home defense and (momentarily) silence the crowd. A simple strike in the opening phase of the attack saw Rico Ioane break a gaping hole in the defence, and after a quickly taken penalty, Beauden Barrett cross-kicked for Tilia to fire into the corner in front of Benaud.
The missed conversion soon had the crowd back in full voice and Ramos’ penalty kick shortly after gave them further encouragement but the clumsy fouls continued.
Ramos dropped a free kick of his own in the 22nd minute to gift New Zealand the ball, while the touch was carelessly missed from the penalty spot. Twice Gabin Villiers decided to return the ball himself from deep rather than pass to a clearly open man for a kick, turning the ball over despite beating the first defender, and the All Blacks consistently found holes in Shaun Edwards’ normally impenetrable defence.
It was somewhat remarkable that France took a 9-8 lead into the first half despite all this, although that lead did not last until just two minutes into the second stanza as Tilia scored early again. A magical pass from Ardi Savea – promoted to captain just before the game when regular skipper Sam Keane had to withdraw late with injury – sat in front of Ioane to thread a long, rebounding pass to the winger for his second attempt.
Home supporters once again voiced their displeasure with Bieber as in-stadium TV replays showed Ioane’s pass may have been slightly forward, but they were soon shouting for a different reason as France displayed a bold challenge.
Just moments after Penaud was spectacularly tackled on the try line by Richie Mo’unga, the decision to kick into the corner was given approval and immediately vindicated as Jalibert’s winding run ended with Penaud tackling to land wide.
From there, the French side, playing at 80% of their potential, never gave up their lead. Ramos raised his personal tally to 17 points in the man-of-the-match match, and Jaminet caught Gael Fickou’s kick while the New Zealand defense hesitated on his second attempt.
This wasn’t exactly what France wanted to put into their World Cup opener, but in its own way, it delivered a very scary message to those who would try to stand in their way for the rest of the tournament.