France have caused the greatest upset in the history of the World Cup this afternoon. “Les bleus” defeated the mighty All-Blacks 43 – 31 in a pulsating game at a capacity 75,000 packed Twickenham.
They quite simply destroyed the proudest and most prodigious rugby nation on the planet with a brand of rugby, which at last flew the flag and restored pride in the Northern hemisphere.
France took the game to their more illustrious opponents from the outset and opened the scoring within two minutes with a Christophe Lamaison penalty goal.
The All-Blacks didn’t let that go on too long though and despite the French playing the better rugby their indiscipline gave Andrew Mehrtens ample opportunity to kick New Zealand into the lead aided superbly by another staggering Jonah Lomu try after he rumble through five or six French tacklers. If not for a 20th minute Christophe Lamaison try after great running from Christophe Dominici the game may have slipped too far away.
Instead the French went in 17 – 10 down at the break, although it did look like the All-Blacks would just keep inching away in the second half.
Mehrtens kicked off the second half and that was what seemed to happen. Lamaison kicked down the throat of Jeff Wilson with Lomu outside him and when the man-mountain received the ball he wasn’t going to be stopped. 24 - 10 five minutes into the second half and the majority felt the French cause was lost. Then they produced one of the sporting performances of the decade.
It brought 26 points in 14 unforgettable second-half minutes, 33 points in all in that wondrous half, which blew the myth of the men in black.Out-half Christophe Lamaison, who scored 28 points was at the heart of everything so wonderfully creative about this French performance.
Christophe Dominici on the wing caused innumerable problems with his constant willingness to run while Phillipe Bernat-Salles on the far side continued to showhis extraordinary pace. Oliver Magne and Marc Lievremont and that man Abdel Benazzi all did trojan work in the pack.
The brilliant Dominici capitalised on a Lamaison chip to race in for a fabulous touchdown as the All-Blacks defence spread-eagled in rare panic. Another Lamaison chip then saw pacy centre Richard Dourthe beat the defence to the third touchdown and suddenly a great blue tide was washing away New Zealand's World Cup dreams. When Bernat-Salles then shrugged off Tana Umaga to race 45 metres for France's fourth try the game was up.
Great encouragement was give by the English crowd who supported their Northern neighbours with verses of`La Marseillaise' and no little noise.
New Zealand did manage a consolation try through the faultless Jeff Wilson but it was too little too late and the French erupted in delight at the sound of referee Jim Fleming’s final whistle. As the All-Blacks left the field, their dreams packed away for another four years, the French celebrated as if they had won the trophy and why wouldn’t they.
The prize for France is a final against Australia next Saturday at the Millennium Stadium, and who’s to say they won’t upset another superpower the way they did today.
New Zealand : Tries: Jonah Lomu 2, Jeff Wilson, Cons: Andrew Mehrtens 2, Pens:Mehrtens 3
France: Tries: Christophe Lamaison, Christophe Dominici, Richard Dourthe, Phillipe Bernat-Salles, Cons: Lamaison 4, Pens: Lamaison 3,Drop Goal: Lamaison 2