France scored through Damian Penaud, Melvyn Jaminet tries, five Thomas Ramos penalties, as they came from 5-0 and 13-9 behind to beat New Zealand at Stade de France in Rugby World Cup 2023 opener; Mark Telea scored twice for All Blacks, including fastest RWC try in history on 93 seconds
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 08/09/23 10:49pm
A Damian Penaud try proved crucial as hosts France came from behind to claim an opening 27-13 Rugby World Cup victory over New Zealand in stifling Paris heat at Stade de France.
Temperatures breached 30 degrees pre kick-off for the night game on Friday, but the All Blacks flew out of the blocks to notch the fastest Rugby World Cup try in history after just 93 seconds through wing Mark Telea.
The boot of France full-back Thomas Ramos edged France back in front by the break, with both sides guilty of errors, before Telea grabbed his second try off a stunning Richie Mo’unga long pass.
France – Tries: Penaud (55), Jaminet (78). Cons: Ramos (57). Pens: Ramos (5, 20, 29, 65, 74).
New Zealand – Tries: Telea (2, 43). Pens: Mo’unga (26).
France responded superbly, however, with Penaud flying over in the corner for the critical score after a wealth of Les Blues pressure – a point from which Fabien Galthie’s side and a huge vocal support did not look back, with replacement back Melvyn Jaminet adding a second try late on to rubberstamp victory.
Yoram Moefana started at centre for France in the injury-enforced absence of Jonathan Danty, while Matthieu Jalibert began at fly-half, with Romain Ntamack missing the tournament due to an ACL suffered last month. Thomas Ramos claimed the full-back shirt over Melvyn Jaminet.
New Zealand lost skipper Sam Cane to a late injury withdrawal, prompting Tupou Vaa’i to start out of position at blindside flanker, with Dalton Papalii moving to openside, and Ardie Savea taking the captaincy. Scott Barrett started a fortnight on from his red card vs South Africa.
Though there will be huge disappointment in the New Zealand camp, particularly with the way in which they were outplayed after Telea’s second try, they made an astonishing start to the contest: Rieko Ioane scything through for great metreage, and Beauden Barrett producing an exquisite kick-pass, which bounced perfectly for Telea to ground less than two minutes in.
France responded quickly, forcing a penalty at the breakdown by the All Blacks 22 following the restart, allowing Ramos to kick them onto the board straightaway.
With the contest at fever pitch from the off and in sapping conditions, it was perhaps unsurprisingly that errors flowed. Both sides turned over possession frequently, while Barrett missed touch with a penalty kick from hand, prior to Ramos striking France into a one-point lead after a scrum penalty.
A Ramos knock-on under no pressure by his 22 brought the All Blacks back onto the attack, but lock Scott Barrett spilled the ball as he dipped to score from close-range with the visitors on advantage from an offside penalty – which they returned to, to take an 8-6 lead courtesy of the boot of Mo’unga.
Just shy of the half-hour mark, Ramos drilled over a superb penalty from the halfway line after another France scrum penalty – this time against the head – leaving France a point ahead at the break, as the All Blacks failed to take advantage of two promising situations in the 22: loosehead Ethan de Groot first knocking on, before Aaron Smith later passed straight off the park.
Les Bleus began like an express train at the beginning of the second period, with the crowd responding in kind, but their momentum was halted when blindside flanker François Cros was penalised for clearing beyond the ruck.
Ultimately, New Zealand scored the first points of the half again, as Telea was on hand to finish in the left corner after Mo’unga ripped out a wonderful long pass out to him, which though France appeal as forward, was a superb piece of execution.
Like with Telea’s first try, Mo’unga missed the difficult touchline conversion, leaving New Zealand four points up at 13-9, but the final half hour or so belonged almost totally to France.
Fuelled by a combination of misplaced injustice, incredible home support and sheer desperation, France forced themselves into scoring positions again and again, as the All Blacks held on through a crucial breakdown penalty win deep in their own 22, and then a remarkable try-saving Mo’unga tackle on Penaud in the corner.
On 55 minutes, the New Zealand dam burst, however, as France decided to kick to the corner with a penalty for the first time in the match, and after a chaotic spell of frenzied attack near the try-line, the ball was shipped wide for Penaud to collect, sprint forward and dive over.
Unlike Mo’unga, Ramos nailed his touchline conversion to push the France lead from one point out to three. Within three minutes, New Zealand were down to 14 players for 10 minutes, as the electric Will Jordan – near anonymous in this Test – was sin-binned for taking Ramos out in the air.
Ramos missed a penalty from out wide on the hour mark, after a roaring French maul had been torn down from the side, but he would stretch the advantage to six points five minutes later, punishing lazy New Zealand rollers at a ruck.
With six minutes to go, Ramos made sure of victory when he struck over a penalty from distance, with Jaminet adding gloss to the score-line in the final stages by collecting a bobbling ball to land over the try-line to an enormous reception. For Antoine Dupont, Galthie and co, it’s a case of first job done.
France next host Uruguay on Thursday September 14, in their second Rugby World Cup Pool A clash, at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.
The All Blacks face Namibia next on Friday September 15, in their second Rugby World Cup Pool A clash, at Stadium de Toulouse.
England and Ireland kick-off their World Cup campaigns on Saturday, as Ireland face Romania in Bordeaux (2.30pm kick off BST), and England meet Argentina in Marseille (8pm kick off BST).