Hooker Peato Mauvaka has continued his remarkable scoring form with two more tries as France handed New Zealand a stinging 40-25 defeat to deepen the wounds after the All Blacks lost in Ireland last weekend.
Saturday night’s match was the last of the year for both teams, and with 20 minutes left at Stade de France they had three tries each, and there were only two points in it.
Then came a moment of genius from flyhalf Romain Ntamack, who saved a try when he caught a bouncing ball behind his own line and launched a stunning field-length counterattack which ended with France earning a penalty just as momentum was turning against them.
Three more points from fullback Melvyn Jaminet’s faultless boot made it 30-25 and gave France a little breathing space, especially with New Zealand No. 8 Ardie Savea sin-binned.
Ntamack went off to a huge ovation and moments later an interception by burly winger Damian Penaud gave France a free try for a 12-point lead with a little more than 10 minutes left.
The French were more inspired on the night, and a stellar performance included a fine try from Ntamack after coach Fabien Galthie movedhim from centre back to flyhalf – where he made his name at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
France face New Zealand in Stade de France again in the opening game of the 2023 World Cup, and won’t have to worry about their Paris bogey now. It was France’s first win over the All Blacks in Paris since 1973, and their first at home since 2000.
Beating the All Blacks marked the biggest statement yet by a rapidly improving side Galthie has developed out of the junior world champion sides from 2018 and 2019.
The All Blacks were down 24-6 at the interval but almost turned it around with three straight second-half tries from fullback Jordie Barrett, prolific center Rieko Ioane, and Savea.
Then Ntamack’s flash of inspiration caught the masters of it, the All Blacks, by surprise.
Jaminet’s last-second penalty ensured his perfect night ended without a miss and the French celebrated a huge win.