New Zealand sweep away France
Scotland snatch an unlikely win over Italy
Charles Piutau of New Zealand’s All Blacks is tackled by Wesley Fofana of France during their match in New Plymouth. Photograph: Nigel Marple/Reuters
New Zealand completed a 3-0 series clean sweep of France with a 24-9 victory in New Plymouth on Saturday.
Ben Smith’s first-half try helped give the All Blacks an 8-6 lead at the break and local boy Beauden Barrett added a second score in the final minute to finish things off as New Zealand recorded a 26th successive home win and seventh on the trot against France.
The rest of New Zealand’s points at the came from the boot of the record-breaking outhalf Dan Carter, whose four penalties and one conversion saw him move on to 1,399 points in Test rugby on his 95th appearance.
France responded with two Jean-Marc Doussain penalties and a Florian Fritz drop goal but, despite an improved showing, they could not avoid slumping to a third successive loss against the world’s top team.
Meanwhile, Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson was pleased to see his team end their tour of South Africa on a high, but acknowledged big strides still needed to be made.
Alasdair Strokosch’s converted try at the death saw the Scots snatch an unlikely 30-29 win over Italy in the quadrangular series third-place play-off match in Pretoria yesterday, but the performance was not a patch on the one produced in last weekend’s 30-17 loss to South Africa.
“I’m not walking away from the fact that we have to improve areas of our game, and we can’t accept that as a standard,” Johnson said after the Italy match – and by all accounts the message was just as terse and even more blunt in the changing room.”
Johnson had made it clear before arriving in South Africa that the tour was all about development and the aim had been to throw a few players into the international mix and see which ones floated and which sank. If he could come home with two or three nuggets, then it would be job done.
He cannot have imagined in advance, though, how deep he would have to go. Six players went home – five injured and Jim Hamilton for family reasons while two more from the original selection failed to make it onto the plane out of Scotland and another two stayed with the tour but did not play again after injuries.
The result was that he finished by capping Fraser Brown, who has never started a professional game, at hooker against Italy; with Strokosch at openside flanker – probably seventh choice in that role; with Greig Laidlaw having to revert to outhalf – a position he thought he had seen the last of – in two out of three games.
In the circumstances, to have come through and engineered a win over Italy, however fortunate it was, with Strokosch making it over the line in the 81st minute to present Laidlaw with the opportunity to snatch victory with the conversion, can be counted as an achievement.
Bryan Habana scored his 50th Test try as South Africa beat Samoa 56-23 to win the tournament.