In Paris, France beat three-time champions New Zealand to begin their quest for a first Rugby World Cup title.
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New Zealand wing Mark Telea scored tries inside the opening minutes of both halves to threaten to ruin the hosts’ opening day.
It was Thomas Ramos’ relentless boot and Damian Penaud’s well-worked try that ultimately separated them from the enterprising, but fading All Blacks.
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After Ramos’ penalty in the 73rd minute, France was finally out of seven-point range on the scoreboard and the home fans celebrated in comfort.
Melvyn Jaminet collected fellow replacement Maxime Lucu’s teasing chip with three minutes left.
After facing Uruguay on Thursday, France will face Namibia and Italy in Pool A.
If they win all three, they will meet the runners-up from Pool B, which includes Ireland, South Africa, and Scotland, in the last eight.
From painful experience, New Zealand, which had won all 31 of its previous pool-stage games at World Cups, will know that all is not lost.
At Japan 2019, they beat South Africa in the best pool-stage match and went on to win the William Webb Ellis Trophy despite losing their opening game.
After the final whistle, France’s players stayed out to soak up the blaring Euro-disco and late summer heat.
It will be autumn in seven weeks, but the stage will remain the same. The result and, perhaps more importantly, the resolve will harden belief that this golden generation will finally lift the silverware that has eluded them three times previously.
The Stade is shocked by Telea’s scores
Even before kickoff, the atmosphere had been bubbling, but it took only 93 seconds for the All Blacks to calm it down.
In New Zealand’s first clean ball, Rieko Ioane sliced through a France midfield without Jonathan Danty.
Despite scrambling, France’s defense never recovered.
Telea was able to collect a bouncing ball in comfort and score thanks to Beauden Barrett’s kick over the narrow Penaud.
It took a while for the Stade to recover.
As Richie Mo’unga pushed his conversion wide, a defiant chorus of Allez Les Bleus rang out.
After 20 minutes, two Ramos penalties capped a period of pressure and gave the home team a 6-5 lead.
The three-time champions, stuffed with big-game smarts, probed cleverly and found space and weaknesses on the tournament’s opening night despite captain Sam Cane withdrawing due to injury.
The crowd might have sat more comfortably at the break had Ramos not missed a shot from out wide that might have been better kicked into the corner rather than at the sticks, giving France a 9-8 lead.
A delightful wraparound put Mo’unga into space, and Dalton Papali’i surged deep into France territory. Pinned back on their own line, France’s relief was palpable as Codie Taylor’s pass drifted into touch.
In the first minute of the second half, Gregory Alldritt offloaded to Antoine Dupont as the line beckoned.
Those same two combination had capped France’s Grand Slam win over England here in 2022. This time, however, New Zealand quelled the threat and sparked something of their own.
After France’s blindside defence rushed up, Ioane spotted space and thrust an ambitious but accurate pass over the top. Telea gathered on the bounce and raced in to make it 13-9 to the All Blacks.
Seeing a replay on the big screen after Mo’unga missed the conversion only increased the decibels directed at Peyper.
The South African official’s popularity fell further when Jalibert was flattened without the ball and play continued.
The evening was beginning to look bleak.
‘We are not champion now’
France number eight Gregory Alldritt: “It was a massive game for our team and I am proud to be French tonight.
“The support was massive and it is just fantastic to get support like this. We are just looking forward to the next game, but we said if we lost today it is not the end of the World Cup.
“But we are not champion now so we just have to keep working and go step by step.”
France head coach Fabien Galthie: “There was a lot of pressure in the first half. It took us time to relax and they scored quickly and easily.”We lost Marchand early on. It was the worst possible scenario and even if we were ahead at the break, we did not control the game. But then we took back control.
“It will do us the world of good, this win. It is a relief and welcome.”
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster: “It was a hell of an opening match, everything we expected. We fired some good bullets at them, we just didn’t fire enough. It doesn’t change much for us, we just have to find another way out of this pool.”
Former England fly-half Paul Grayson on BBC Radio 5 Live: “When it mattered in the second half, France got it right. They dominated possession in the second half and you felt certain at some point they would come up with something to make the difference. They make very few mistakes.”
France: Ramos, Penaud, Fickou, Falatea-Moefana, Villiere, Jalibert, Dupont, Wardi, Marchand, Atonio, Woki, Flament, Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt.
Replacements: Jaminet for Ramos (76), Vincent for Falatea-Moefana (58), Lucu for Dupont (76), Gros for Wardi (53), Mauvaka for Marchand (12), Taofifenua for Woki (49), Boudehent for Cros (63). Not Used: Aldegheri.
New Zealand: B. Barrett, Jordan, Ioane, Liernert-Brown, Telea, Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Laulala, Whitelock, S. Barrett, Papali’i, Vaa’i, Savea.
Replacements: Havili for Liernert-Brown (63), Fainga’anuku for Telea (72), Christie for Smith (63), Tu’ungafasi for de Groot (53), Taukeiaho for Taylor (57), Newell for Laulala (53). Not Used: Jacobson.
Sin Bin: Jordan (58)