New Zealand crush France in World Cup

World Cup holders New Zealand made it two wins out of two in Group B with a comfortable victory over France in Avignon.

Half-back Shaun Johnson proved a key figure for the Kiwis, scoring two second-half tries and kicking 16 points.

Sydney Roosters forward Frank-Paul Nu’uausala touched down twice.

Krisnan Inu, Bryson Goodwin, Greg Eastwood and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also crossed for the New Zealand side.

Even without dual-code star Sonny Bill Williams and not always playing the most fluent rugby, the Kiwis were too good against a determined France outfit who beat Papua New Guinea in their opening game.

Victory, which came five days after their 42-24 win over Samoa, gave New Zealand a two-point lead at the top of the group.

After four minutes they took the lead through Inu, who rose uncontested to claim Kieran Foran’s crossfield kick and touch down, with Johnson adding the extras.

The Kiwis looked to have extended their lead four minutes later but Frank Pritchard’s try was disallowed by video referee Shayne Hayne, before Jason Nightingale was denied by some tough defence from Cyril Stacul and Jean-Philippe Baile.

However, after 25 minutes the Kiwis’ kicking game undid the French when Johnson’s punt was grabbed by Goodwin.

New Zealand extended their advantage just before the break as Issac Luke’s flat pass found Nu’uausala, who twisted and turned over the line to put them 18-0 up.

Luke took advantage of France’s fatigue after the interval with some smart skill to get the ball out to Johnson, who scored and kicked the extras to put the Kiwis further ahead on 51 minutes.

Luke proved a constant thorn in the France side and five minutes later found the space to escape from a couple of tacklers and set up Johnson for his second try. The half-back continued his perfect kicking record, making no mistake with the conversion from in front of the posts.

Former Leeds forward Greg Eastwood then went over for a converted try on 66 minutes.

But the biggest cheer of the night from the 17,000-strong crowd came eight minutes from time when France full-back Morgan Escare raced down the wing only for opposite number Kevin Locke to pull off a try-saving tackle.

Nu’uausala competed his double in the closing minutes before Tuivasa-Sheck had the final say, scoring in the corner with the final play of the game.

New Zealand’s next match is against Papua New Guinea next Friday, while France will take on Samoa in a key game on Monday 11 November.

The top three teams in Group B go through to the quarter-finals.

New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney:

“I thought it was a pretty sound performance in the areas I wanted us to improve on.

“We had a real focus on defence and I thought that was pretty good. But I take my hat off to the French, who threw everything at us. We were very determined in defence and it took a good performance to get us a result.

“We still have things to work on; there were a couple of areas in attack I could recognise. We scored some good tries, have still got improvements in us and some guys really put their hands up.”