Cape Town – Karl Tu’inukuafe made his immense presence felt with a game-changing introduction to Test rugby as the All Blacks came from behind to record a runaway 52-11 win over France in Auckland on Saturday.
The All Blacks scored eight tries, seven of them after the man mountain, who was not on their radar a few weeks ago, came on five minutes into the second half and used his immense bulk to give the world champions a much-needed scrum dominance.
From being 8-11 down at the break, the All Blacks piled on 44 unanswered points in a blistering second half to stretch their Eden Park unbeaten run to 41 games.
Codie Taylor, Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape all scored tries in the second period, while Rieko Ioane ran in two.
French fullback Maxime Medard will have nightmares about his last-ditch attempt to block Laumape when the All Blacks replacement charged at the line.
Nine years ago, Medard was the French hero with a match-winning try when they beat the All Blacks in Dunedin, but this time he will be remembered for being sent flying as Laumape ran through him.
It epitomised a brutal turnaround by the All Blacks after France had claimed the better of the first half to hold a three-point lead at the turn.
– Floodgates opened –
Props Dany Priso and Uini Atonio were in the thick of the early action as France used their muscle to best the All Blacks in the scrums and mauls, while their backs were willing to run at every opportunity.
The All Blacks moved the ball from side to side as well as employing long-range grubber kicks and short chips over the backline, all to no avail.
Left wing Remy Grosso was gifted the opening try when Ben Smith swooped on the ball at the back of an unprotected French ruck.
His clearing pass, which would have put Ioane in the clear, was instead intercepted by Grosso who had an easy run to the line.
After an exchange of penalties by Beauden Barrett and Morgan Parra, the three Barrett brothers featured in an equalising try.
Scott and Jordie Barrett created space for Ryan Crotty to take the ball to the line, where Beauden Barrett finished the move.
A booming 51-metre penalty by Parra lifted France to 11-8 and while the All Blacks pounded the French line in the closing minutes of the first half, they were unable to draw level again until the introduction of Tu’inukuafe early in the second half.
In the first scrum of the second half when Tu’inukuafe was on the field, the French pack was driven back and in the following rucks and mauls the impact was the same.
His first scrum effort produced a penalty for Beauden Barrett to level the scores, and when Paul Gabrillagues was sin-binned, the floodgates opened.
The All Blacks ruthlessly scored 32 points in 20 minutes with the tries to Taylor, Ben Smith, Ioane, McKenzie and Laumape.
Beauden Barrett, having an off-night with the boot, contributed two conversions and a penalty.
France pressured the All Blacks line in the closing 10 minutes but Ioane snaffled an intercept pass to for his second try before Ardie Savea barged over on the stroke of fulltime.
New Zealand 52 (8)
Tries: Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane (2), Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape, Ardie Savea
Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3)
Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2)
France 11 (11)
Try: Remy Grosso
Penalties: Morgan Parra (2)