French toast gone sour for the All Blacks
France’s Damian Penaud crosses the Goal line to score a try against New Zealand
Despite the sweltering 35-degree Celsius temperature on a humid night, the iconic Stade de France in Paris drew an estimated crowd of nearly 78,000 enthusiastic rugby fans who were eager to witness the highly anticipated opening match of the 2023 World Cup rugby encounter. The grand opening ceremony, which celebrated the rich cultural heritage of France and the spirit of rugby, marked the beginning of this prestigious tournament.
As part of the opening formalities, the former New Zealand rugby legend Dan Carter unveiled the exquisitely crafted Web Ellis trophy, which had been locked in a specially made box. After the two teams entered the stadium with their starting lineups, Aaron Smith, the All Blacks scrumhalf, led the traditional New Zealand “Haka” in his 120th test match for his country.
Within the first two minutes of the match, New Zealand’s winger Mark Telea collected a cross kick from full-back Beauden Barrett to score on the left flank. Although Richie Mounga missed the conversion, the All Blacks took an early lead of 5-0.
France got their first scoring opportunity when New Zealand flanker Dalton Papali’i, who replaced the injured skipper, was penalized for not releasing the ball. Thomas Ramos capitalized on the opportunity by converting the penalty, reducing France’s deficit to 5-3.
Ramoz propelled France ahead for the first time in the match, with a penalty kick following the All Blacks’ scrum collapse, bringing the score to 6-5. Momentum swung back in favour of the All Blacks when Mounga effortlessly converted another penalty, extending their lead to 8-6.
France once again took the lead at 9-8 after earning a penalty for another All Blacks’ scrum collapse. Ramos expertly converted a 50-metre penalty, although he faltered with another attempt, his first miss during the first half. With no further scoring from either side in the ensuing 10 minutes, the half time score stood at 9-8.
Within the first two minutes of the second half, the All Blacks found their way across the French goal line for the second time. A long pass from centre Rieko Ioani was skilfully collected by Mark Telea, who added another try to his tally.
The referee sought confirmation from the Television Match Official (TMO) regarding the legality of the pass, and the clearance was given. Mounga failed to convert the try, but the All Blacks held onto a 13-9 lead.
About five minutes later, the hosts missed an opportunity to breach the opponents’ goal line when
winger Penaud Damian was prevented by Mounga, executing a flying cover tackle that resulted in a knock-on by the carrier. However, Damian made amends by scoring a minute later, propelling the French into a 16-13 lead after Ramos successfully converted. The All Blacks found themselves down to 14 players a few minutes later when winger Will Jordan received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle and was sent to the “sin bin.”
Just before the next scheduled water break in the second half, Ramos failed to convert another penalty, marking his second unsuccessful attempt of the match. However, he redeemed himself by successfully converting a straightforward 25-meter penalty, extending his team’s lead to 19-13 with 15 minutes left to play.
Upon returning to the field, Will Jordan committed another infraction when tackling a French player. Fortunately for the All Blacks, the referee deemed the offense worthy of only a penalty, sparing Jordan from further punishment.
This decision provided Ramos with another opportunity to increase his team’s score, bringing it to 22-13. At this point, the French appeared to have gained control of the game.
With just three minutes remaining in the match, the French had yet another scoring opportunity.
Melvyn Jaminet, who came on as a replacement for French captain DuPont, scored after chasing a kick alongside teammate Damian. This try came about when Mounga failed to judge the bounce of the ball. Ramos, who had been substituted, was replaced by Jaminet for the conversion attempt, which unfortunately was unsuccessful.
Nevertheless, the game concluded with a score of 27-13 in favour of the hosts, sparking jubilation among their fans. Credit must be given to Head Coach Fabien Galthie, who has been diligently shaping the team since 2019, transforming them into a formidable force.
Historical records indicate that this is the first time in 32 years that the All Blacks have been defeated in a World Cup pool match.