By Richard Cowley, Date: 2/11/13
In front of 17,518 cheering fans in Avignon, France put on an encouraging performance as a minnow nation against current World Cup holders New Zealand.
The French put in a gutsy effort in the first half and managed to put the Kiwis off their game with some great defence. The Kiwis seemed to be a little rusty and found it hard to get into the rhythm of the game.
The Kiwis first two tries in the 5th (Inu) and 24th (Goodwin) minutes came from high kicks. It was the only way the Kiwis could get past the French who kept on turning up with strong defence.
After such a great effort the French defence finally faulted just before half time with Frank-Paul Nuuausala steamrolling over.
Shaun Johnson converted Nuuausala’s try as he had done with the previous two tries to put the Kiwis up 0 – 18 at half-time.
For the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half the scores remained unchanged and it looked like the French were really going to make a game of it.
But then Isaac Luke started darting out of dummy half and the French had no answer. Isaac Luke setup Shaun Johnson in the 50th and again in the 56th minute with Johnson converting both of his tries to put the Kiwis out to a 30 point lead.
From there it didn’t get any better for the French who started to look tired with Greg Eastwood crossing in the 65th minute and then Frank-Paul Nuuausala going in for his 2nd in the 74th minute. Johnson kept up his great goal kicking converting both to put the Kiwis way out in front 0 – 42
With 90 seconds remaining the French finally crossed the line with the roar of the crowd in the back ground. But it just wasn’t to be with video ref Shane Hayne ruling a knock-on.
The Kiwis put one last play on at full time to see Roger Tuivasa-Sheck cross over. Shaun Johnson converted to bring his points tally for the match up to 24 and secure man of the match.
The 0 – 48 scoreline didn’t do the French any justice. They really gave it their best shot against the Kiwis.
The sold out game and tremendous effort of the French in the first half show rugby league has come some way in France in recent years. With plans afoot for another Super League team to play out of Toulouse, the future of rugby league in France looks bright.
The Kiwis on the other hand show why they should really be the World Cup favourites ahead of Australia. The Kiwis have a history of building momentum in these types of tournaments and if they manage to get past England, if they do indeed meet in the Semi-Final, Australia will be up against an outstanding rugby league team.
New Zealand 48, Tries: Eastwood, Inu, Goodwin, Nuuausala (2), Johnson (2), Tuivasa-Sheck, Goals: Johnson (8),