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All Blacks Jolt 'Boring' Test Rugby Back To Life

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
All Blacks Jolt 'Boring' Test Rugby Back To Life

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Marseille, Nov 29 NZPA - From boring to breathtaking. As the jubilant All Blacks cradled the Dave Gallaher Trophy at Stade Velodrome, they reflected on a night when they did themselves, and test rugby, a huge favour.

Five tries to none, some of them magnificent long-range efforts, helped destroy France 39-12 to avenge their loss to the same opponents in Dunedin in June and breathe some life into a game that badly needed oxygen.

The All Blacks completed another unbeaten test tour of Europe and extended their clean defensive sheet to eight northern hemisphere tests, taking in last year's Grand Slam.

The players were not just satisfied with their best display in their 14th test of the year, but also to give their long-suffering New Zealand fans a pick-me-up.

"Everyone needed that performance. It was pretty flat all year, the rugby, not many tries and everyone loves to see tries. I guess it was getting pretty boring and everyone was commenting on it," said winger Cory Jane, one of the All Blacks' tryscorers after a pinpoint centre kick.

Fullback Mils Muliaina, who moved past Justin Marshall into second on the all-time All Blacks test list with his 82nd cap, hoped it would lift some of the gloom around the sport.

"Man, how pleasing is that? Just to go to summer now, having put in a full performance like that ... the attack's back and hopefully we're going to put some big smiles on New Zealanders' faces back home because there's a lot of attacking rugby still left in us," Muliaina said.

The veteran fullback started and finished the try of the match, which summed up the All Blacks' counter-attacking instincts which threatened against England a week ago but didn't fully click until today.

From inside his 22m, Muliaina fired a long pass which helped put Sitiveni Sivivatu in the clear as he scorched down the left, before an in-pass saw Muliaina stroll over.

The skill level was outstanding throughout, with passes sticking, forwards running like backs and players smashing into rucks.

Dan Carter kicked six-from-seven and took charge in the second half with his running game and some deft tactical kicking, while rampaging No 8 Kieran Read and centre Conrad Smith were two other All Blacks standouts.

And captain Richie McCaw topped yet another imposing display by being named the International Rugby Board's player of the year.

The Thierry Dusautoir-captained France began breathing fire but their physical approach which toppled South Africa was no match for the All Blacks' pace and power.

The atmosphere in the 60,000-capacity Stade Velodrome -- where France had lost just one of their nine previous tests -- was electric at kickoff.

But by midway through the first half there was an eerie hush and at fulltime the locals filed out in silence, ashen-faced.

"We knew we had to start well and we got a couple of tries early which silenced the crowd a bit which played into our hands," Jane said.

"Everything we did, if we threw a pass someone would catch it and find another hole.

"It's about 80 degrees in there (dressing room), it's cooking. All the boys are sweating but they're pretty pumped. There's some happy boys."

Coach Graham Henry labelled it a special day for his side, and one of their most satisfying of the 65 test wins he and assistants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen had overseen.

Having reshuffled their roles, Henry lauded Smith's efforts with the defence to not concede a try in Cardiff, Milan, London and Marseille, and Hansen for "the best attacking display by an international team for some time".

"There's been some remarkable wins over the years and that one was a special one, very special," Henry said.

"We've had a challenging year, we've won the last six games after being four and four at one stage in the season.

"I'm just delighted for the guys that they've put that record straight and they can feel good about the season and enjoy the summer."

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