Finishing the season with a 24-19 win against a resurgent France the All Blacks retained the Dave Gallagher trophy to reflect on a pretty successful year.

It took some determined defence to deny France the satisfaction of a complete turnaround after last year's Rugby World Cup quarter-final rout but there was clear evidence of the revival of France's international game, with hints of a return to their traditional style of play.

Again it was the brilliance of first five-eighths Beauden Barrett that was significant with a vital length-of-the-field runaway try and a key role in the opening try scored by fullback Israel Dagg.

The All Blacks absorbed some early assaults from France who looked to work their own variation of the off-loading game with good effect, especially from flanker Kevin Gourdon. But some early mistakes, at turnovers and at lineouts proved costly.

While there was evidence of the return of French elan when running with the ball, other aspects of their play were lacking, especially the lineout where early in the second half the All Blacks almost picked the ball off at will.

France put their game plan into action from the outset to dominate territory. But a turnover penalty saw the All Blacks win the lineout in the sixth minute and Barrett immediately unleased a cross-kick to left wing Julian Savea. He leapt high on the sideline and sprinted forward to find fullback Israel Dagg in support and in the clear for the opening try.

France kept sending waves of attackers in with first five-eighths Camille Lopez going close only to be denied by a key tackle by wing Waisake Naholo. It was that sort of half where the All Blacks defences were put under consistent pressure as France worked their off-loading game.

Starting the second half, France looked to continue that style of game with a strong surge at the All Blacks line with New Caledonian-born lock Sebastian Vahaamahina prominent with strong breaks while former New Zealand-based prop Uini Atonio also showed his ability with the ball in hand.

But a delayed service at a key ruck saw Machenaud arrive late and in the resulting play the French passing was sufficiently telegraphic for Barrett to roar out of the line to pick off his intercept to race 90m downfield to score.

Fullback Brice Dulin offered issues for the All Blacks defences on occasion with some effective running into gaps. French skipper and hooker Guilhem Guirado was dropped in a tackle by flanker Jerome Kaino millimetres short of the goal-line heading into the final quarter.

As the infusion of substitutes took place around the 50th minute, the tempo was lifted and after a rare chance to kick to the corner and institute a driving maul saw the All Blacks take two rucks to set up their chance and the try, when it came, was from a pass from Kieran Read onto replacement lock Scott Barrett's shoulder for replacement prop Charlie Faumuina to take the ball and score after 57 minutes.

But France seemed to take rhythm from the All Blacks' tempo and charged back into their 22m area. The All Blacks conceded a scrum penalty just off their line and when their inspired replacement halfback Baptiste Serin flicked a short pass to No.8 Louis Picamoles who scored.

Serin was a livewire for France and his fluidity of pass was more attuned to the pace of game France wanted to play at. Four minutes from the end he landed a penalty goal that got France within five points. However, Naholo secured the restart and the All Blacks kept the ball tight and allowed no slip-ups that would have given France a sniff. As soon as the clock ticked over 80 minutes replacement halfback Aaron Smith booted the ball well into touch to end the game, the campaign and the season with a solitary loss, to Ireland, in Chicago.


France 19 (Louis Picamoles try; Maxime Machenaud 2 pen; Baptiste Serin con, 2 pen) New Zealand 24 (Israel Dagg, Beauden Barrett, Charlie Faumuina tries; Barrett 3 con, pen). HT: 6-10