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France launch World Cup with historic win

France scored two second-half tries to seal a decisive World Cup-opening victory against New Zealand in Paris on Friday.

The tournament hosts recovered from an indifferent first-half performance to claim a 27-13 victory, becoming the first team to beat the All Blacks in the pool stages of a World Cup.

After a colourful opening ceremony the All Blacks’ Haka was well respected by the sold-out Stade de France crowd as well as by Les Bleus.

New Zealand made a late change as captain Sam Cane was ruled out, Tupou Vaa’i coming in from the bench with Dalton Papali’i moving from blindside flanker to the openside as No 8 Ardie Savea took over as skipper, leaving Ian Foster’s side light at the breakdown.

But the All Blacks needed just 93 seconds to lay to bed any idea of a hangover from last month’s record defeat by South Africa as Telea collected a Beauden Barrett kick in the corner to score and to silence the French supporters.

Ramos then cut the score to 5-3 with a penalty after Papali’i was pinned at a breakdown after five minutes.

After a frantic opening quarter, Ramos put his side into the lead with a second penalty before Richie Mo’unga responded with one of his own to make it 8-6.

New Zealand-born France tighthead prop Uini Atonio had the advantage at scrum time and won a penalty that Ramos slotted to make it 9-8 at half time, with the players seeming happy to have the break due to the humidity.

Telea claimed his second of proceedings in the opposite corner, from an original Savea chip kick just three minutes into the second period.

Mo’unga missed another conversion as the home supporters voiced their displeasure at playmaker Mo’unga’s assist for Telea, claiming a forward pass, but New Zealand led 13-9.

The battle at scrumhalf between Antoine Dupont and Aaron Smith was highly anticipated and it was All Black Smith who had the upper hand, scragging Dupont down with well-timed tackles twice just after 50 minutes.

With little under half an hour play, Les Bleus came within inches of the New Zealand line but Mo’unga’s perfect last-ditch tackle stopped Penaud from grounding the ball.

Two minutes later, Penaud got his try as fly-half Matthieu Jalibert found him in the same corner before Ramos’ touch-line conversion made it 16-13.

Things got worse for New Zealand two phases after the restart as winger Will Jordan was sent to the sin-bin for taking Ramos out in the air, with the momentum swung massively to the home side’s advantage.

Ramos added a fourth penalty to make it 19-13 before Jordan returned from the sin-bin to set up a very tense finish.

Jordan was in hot water shortly after his return for a similar incident but referee Jaco Peyper chose to only award a penalty for his offence, which Ramos gladly kicked to make it 22-13 with seven minutes to play.

The cherry was put atop the French cake as Melvyn Jaminet went over with two minutes to play, sending the home crowd wild in celebration.

Next up for Les Bleus is a match against Uruguay in Lille on 14 September, while New Zealand will be looking to bounce back against Namibia in Toulouse on 15 September.

© Agence France-Presse

Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

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