The All Blacks buried their demons when Dan Carter directed a nine-try symphony to wipe France out of the World Cup with a 62-13 victory in their quarter-final showdown on Saturday.
Julian Savea bagged a hattrick to overtake Jonah Lomu in the all-time All Blacks try scorers list, 38 to 37. The score was the highest for a World Cup knockout match.
A beaming and bloodied Richie McCaw was replaced 10 minutes from the final whistle knowing his side had put a decisive end to the legendary nightmare losses to France at the 1999 and 2007 tournaments.
McCaw highlighted how New Zealand had applied pressure from the start.
“The tension was always going to go up a notch and we talked about it all week about needing to go up a notch,” said captain Richie McCaw.
“I am just proud of the way the guys, especially at the start of the game, we got into it and applied pressure,” he added. “We were pretty clinical in terms of when we got it in our own half.”
McCaw said the defeat by France in the same Millennium Stadium in the 2007 quarter final had no bearing on the result. “We never really thought that much about it,” he insisted.
McCaw’s defending champions had promised to raise their game in the knockout stages and they delivered.
They raced to a 29-13 lead by half-time and hammered home a further 33 points in the second half to set up a semi-final next weekend against South Africa who beat Wales 23-19 in a cliff-hanger quarter-final.
In addition to Savea’s triple, Tawera Kerr-Barlow touched down twice and Nehe Milner-Skudder, Brodie Retallick Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read also crossed while Carter added 17 points from the boot.
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All Black rampage
France were restricted to a try by Louis Picamoles converted by Morgan Parra who also landed a penalty as did Scott Spedding.
Carter was a master puppeteer, pulling the strings to make France dance the way he wanted.
His restarts were with such pinpoint accuracy that the All Blacks were able to win them all.
Each time he ran with the ball he attracted two or more defenders opening up spaces outwide and his tackling was ferocious as it was for all the All Blacks.
Their pack which had creaked during pool matches, burst into life controlling the collision area and claiming three French lineouts.
New Zealand exploded out of the blocks, stunning the French with their early high-paced game but while they had territory and possession their finishing required attention.
They had to rely on a Carter penalty to get their first points on the board before Brodie Retallick charged down a Frederic Michalak kick, regathered and ran 35 metres unopposed to score.
The fluffed kick was Michalak’s last act as he limped from the field with an apparent hamstring strain.
A 54-metre penalty by Scott Spedding and one from much closer by Morgan Parra, who took over the kicking duties from Michalak, kept France in touch in the first 20 minutes but the power and precision of the All Blacks was beginning to tell.
Milner-Skudder, with his deceptive side-step, stood up Brice Dulin and outpaced Spedding for the All Blacks second try.
Carter’s conversion had the All Blacks ahead 17-6 with only a quarter of the game gone.
The fly-half immediately set up the All Blacks third try from a lineout steal when he drew three defenders then flicked the ball out of the back of his hand to send Savea over.
Ben Smith set up Savea’s second try claiming a high kick which the All Blacks swung wide to the left wing who steam-rolled over Noa Nakaitaci and Spedding on his way to the line.
France looked revived at the start of the second half putting the All Blacks under pressure on their own line but the work was undone when Picamoles punched an already bloodied McCaw starting an all-in brawl as the All Blacks went to defend their skipper.
It meant a yellow card for the French backrower and cost his side their most effective player for 10 minutes.
The All Blacks were able to kick their way back on attack and from their they ran riot with five tries in the closing 30 minutes mostly stemming from offloads France were powerless to stop.