France put in a commanding showing that saw them beat the Blues 38-15 in an historic midweek fixture in Albany.
The Blues came off second best in several facets of the game but will be enthused at how they finished matters in impressive scoring fashion.
France made fourteen personnel changes to their XV and one positional tweak to the side that lost 23-13 to New Zealand for this historic game.
Maxime Médard was the only player to be retained and he shifted from wing across to full-back in a backline that featured Castres ten Rémi Tales.
There was also a debut for South African-born loose forward duo Antonie Claassen and Bernard Le Roux, who joined Yannick Nyanga on the flank.
It was the aforementioned trio’s strength at the breakdown and in the tackle that proved to be the difference in the first-half as France’s pack turned the screw up front. Their upper hand in this facet saw scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain knock over four penalties to Baden Kerr’s one in the first 40.
Kerr had to leave the action in the 18th minute due to a knock and did not return to the field so the experienced Chris Noakes led the Blues backline. Unfortunately the Blues, who were missing Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua, Francis Saili and Piri Weepu were not doing enough to threaten the French.
Instead it was a succession of breakdown offences that saw scrum-half Doussain sending over four out of his five penalty attempts in a calm showing during the opening stanza.
France came out for the second-half in imperious form and were over for the first try of the game with 45 minutes gone as Gael Fickou slipped replacement Noakes on the right before diving over. Doussain’s well-struck extras from the touchline made it 19-3.
Les Bleus were over again five minutes later as wing Noa Nakaitaci opened his account after Fred Michalak shipped the ball wide where Fickou and Medard combined to send over the Clermont wing. It was now a 23-point margin in Albany.
Nakaitaci was over again two minutes later, this time skipping inside George Moala on the right before showing power to go over following Television Match Official confirmation.
Pride was then salvaged for the Blues as tries from captain James Parsons and wing Moala in the 57th and 62nd minute, the latter’s try coming off a nice inside ball from Jackson Willison that made it 15-31 with the result beyond doubt.
However, France would have the final say as fittingly their forward power came to the fore when replacement Benjamin Kayser was at the back of a successful rolling maul.
Tries: Parsons, Moala
Tries: Fickou, Nakaitaci 2, Kayser
Con: Doussain 3
Pen: Doussain 4
Blues: 15 Marty McKenzie, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Anthony Boric. 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi. 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Ronald Raaymakers, 20 Sean Polwart, 21 Chris Noakes, 22 Tevita Li, 23 Wayne Ngaluafe.
France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Rémi Tales, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Yannick Nyanga (c), 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Frédéric Michalak, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Brice Dulin.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Richard Kelly (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
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