New Zealand hold off spirited France


New Zealand rounded off their year with a 24-19 victory in Paris, but the All Blacks were made to work hard against a France team out to right the wrongs of the previous meeting between the sides.

Last year's 62-13 hammering in the World Cup quarter-finals was fresh in the mind of the French players, who gave a good account of themselves despite ultimately failing to fully atone for that defeat.

Israel Dagg, Beauden Barrett and Charlie Faumuina all crossed for New Zealand, who have built a run of three wins since Ireland unexpectedly halted their record-breaking sequence of 18.

Louis Picamoles - as he did against the same opposition in Cardiff in October 2015 - scored France's only try, but there were plenty of encouraging signs for coach Guy Noves, whose men were too often found wanting inside the All Blacks' 22.

Having come under some early pressure from their hosts, New Zealand - wearing their new mostly-white alternate strip - made the breakthrough in the eighth minute.

Julian Savea collected from a Barrett cross kick before passing inside for Dagg to race for the line.

World player of the year Barrett's second successful kick stretched the visitors' advantage but France continued to look bright despite falling 10-0 behind.

Maxime Machenaud's 25th-minute penalty was the least their offensive play deserved, but the breakdown of attacking moves just short of the line became a recurring theme.

France's ambition stirred a belief among the home fans that their team could pull off an Ireland-style upset, and Machenaud split the posts again to reduce the deficit to four at the break.

But the hosts' tendency to squander possession from promising positions reared its ugly head with devastating consequences shortly after the restart.

With France clearing the ball from a ruck on the All Blacks' 10-metre line, Barrett intercepted a pass to great effect, storming the length of the pitch unchallenged before dotting down under the posts.

Baptiste Serin pulled three points back for France after replacing Machenaud, but Faumuina powered over soon after to further dash French hopes.

Serin's quick thinking teed up Picamoles to finally cross for Noves' men, and the replacement scrum-half kicked five further points, but the All Blacks held on for a 10th consecutive victory over France.