New Zealand vastly improved their performance from their first test loss to beat France 14-10 in wind and driving rain at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand.
AFP - A determined All Blacks side battled their way to a 14-10 win over France in a bruising second rugby Test here Saturday to level the series.
Both sides scored a try apiece, with the telling difference being the kicking of the All Blacks who landed three penalties in atrocious wintry weather while France were rewarded with a conversion and a penalty.
Apart from the scrums, where France again dominated to buckle the All Blacks seemingly at will, New Zealand showed they had learned from their shortcomings when beaten 22-27 in the first Test last week.
They led 8-0 at halftime and were never behind at any stage in the match as their forwards took control of the breakdown.
Although France were expecting a New Zealand backlash, they were unable to handle the ferocity of the All Blacks forwards in the early exchanges.
The wind and driving rain dictated that it would not be attractive rugby and the match was riddled with handling errors as both sides favoured the high ball to kick for territory.
The All Blacks telegraphed their intentions early with a series of up-and-unders from Jimmy Cowan targeting right wing Vincent Clerc and forcing France deep into their own territory.
But they failed to capitalise on an early chance for points when flyhalf Stephen Donald's first penalty attempt sailed to the right of the posts.
Francois Trinh-Duc then squandered a chance for France when he intercepted a pass from Cowan to Joe Rokocoko on the halfway line but his offload went astray.
Rocokoco had an opportunity to make amends when he toed a dropped French ball ahead only to see Cedric Heymans win the race for the ball and tidy up behind his own goal line.
Heymans was the standout performer for France, but the inhospitable weather dictated events to give him few opportunities to expose the All Blacks' tackling deficiencies.
Donald missed a second penalty from 30 metres out before Ma'a Nonu opened the scoring with a try wide out.
Isaac Ross and Tanerau Latimer had sparked a series of All Blacks drives at the line which lasted until France eventually ran out of defensive numbers leaving the line open for Nonu.
Donald missed the conversion but landed his first penalty from three attempts just before half-time for the All Blacks to turn 8-0 ahead.
Five minutes into the second half a brilliant solo effort by Heymans narrowed the gap as he stepped around four would-be tacklers in a 50 metre run to the line.
Dupuy added the extras and France trailed 7-8 but missed a penalty attempt soon after which would have given the visitors the lead.
The All Blacks regained the initiative with Nonu and Kieran Read both going close before Donald landed his second penalty and New Zealand led 11-7 with 35 minutes remaining.
France had a golden opportunity to hit the front when Heymans chipped through and Clerc latched on to the ball metres from the line but he promptly dropped it as he was confronted by All Blacks lock Brad Thorn.
The All Blacks and France then exchanged penalties as first Luke McAlister, a replacement for Donald, extended the All Blacks lead to 14-7 before French replacement Dmitry Yachvili replied immediately.
In a dramatic closing 15 minutes the All Blacks and France both pressured the try line but the defence of both sides remained rock solid.
Rokocoko went closest to scoring when he chased a Piri Weepu chip kick, but as happened to so many promising moves in the wet, he knocked the ball on.
Date created : 2009-06-20