Report, score, highlights, Damian Penaud try


PARIS – Allez, Allez indeed. This party is just getting started in France after Les Bleus beat the All Blacks 29-13 on the opening night of the World Cup to ensure the packed Stade de France crowd went home happy.

On a sweltering Friday evening, where the temperature was still 30 degrees Celsius when the Test got underway at 9:20pm local time and the pressure could be cut through with a knife, France overturned a narrow deficit early in the second half to go home victors.

Damian Penaud’s try in the 55th minute a metre inside the touchline was the match-turning moment, as Matthieu Jalibert danced across the field like a man without the hopes of a nation on his shoulders following Romain Ntamack’s injury and sent his right-winger into score.

Damian Penaud celebrates with teammates after scoring France’s crucial try against the All Blacks in their World Cup opener at Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

With that both ecstasy and relief. A nation on tenterhooks with the atmosphere tense and a stark contrast to the festival and wildly joyful scenes from just a fortnight earlier when they easily put away Eddie Jones’ Wallabies.

But putting away a building Wallabies side on the eve of the great tournament is a completely different proposition to hosting the three-time world champions on the opening night of the World Cup.

Penaud’s try came a mere 10 minutes after All Blacks winger Mark Telea had comfortably run into score his second of the match following a dubiously flat ball from Rieko Ioane that has seen the French stop and the crowd first turn to shock and the next anger.

South African referee Jaco Peyper had at once become the most unpopular man in France, as he waved away the home side’s men pleading their case. The replay, which eventually came, did nothing to silence the anger of 78,690 fans who vented their frustrations seconds after Richie Mo’unga had missed from near the sideline.

But Penaud, a man who lit up the Stade de France a fortnight earlier with his stunning double, safely scored unlike two minutes earlier when Mo’unga’s last-ditch diving effort denied him a try.

From that moment on, France never looked back.

A general view of the inside of the stadium ahead of the World Cup opener at the Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Will Jordan’s yellow card three minutes later for making contact in the air was another dagger in the hearts of Ian Foster’s men. It was the most costly of New Zealand’s 12 conceded penalties, with France staying on the right side of the whistle by giving away just four.

More clumsy work in the air allowed Thomas Ramos, who had given France a 9-8 half-time lead following three first-half penalties, to step up and land his fifth three-pointer for the evening to see France move to a 22-13 lead after 74 minutes.

Penaud came close to lifting the roof off the stadium when he almost scooped up a grubber in behind the New Zealand defence but Peyper ruled a little knock-on before diving onto the ball and popping up off the deck metres short of the tryline for another disallowed try.

But it didn’t matter. Another kick in behind moments later from replacement halfback Maxime Lulu  saw the ball stop on a dime and fool the impressive Mo’unga and allow replacement back Melvyn Jaminet to score and give the home side another reason to celebrate.

The defeat was New Zealand’s first at the pool stage after 31 successive victories. It was also their heaviest World Cup defeat, ensuring the next month will be a nervy and high-octane environment following consecutive defeats.

While Ian Foster’s men are hardly in crisis, the world no longer fears the All Blacks.

Meanwhile, France cemented themselves as one of the competition’s favourites in a victory that will fill Fabien Galthie’s men with confidence.

Antoine Dupont gestures a thumbs-up at full-time following his side’s victory in their Rugby World Cup opener against the All Blacks at Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Earlier, the metros were packed like sardines as fans arrived early to soak up a excited, sun-filled atmosphere where the beers flowed and joy radiated.

A half-hour opening ceremony where a reconstructed Eiffel Tower went up in the centre of the field and dancers and the French culture was celebrated before a spectacular fireworks display sent shivers down spines.

The All Blacks dominated the early stages.

Rieko Ioane, the former World Rugby rookie of the year, broke free centre field from a Sam Whitelock lineout take and rapid-fire pass from Aaron Smith sent the outside centre through.

France rallied, but only briefly. Telea scored in the second minute from Beauden Barrett’s crossfield kick.

Ian Foster’s All Blacks have now lost back to back Tests. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

From there the home side accumulated. Tupou Vaa’i, called into the starting side following Sam Cane’s late withdrawal, was pinged for not rolling away and Ramos knocked over three.

A scrum penalty saw Ramos give the home side a 6-5 lead after 20 minutes.

The All Blacks regained the lead after France were eventually pinged near their own goal line after 12 phases of defence. Acting captain Ardie Savea pointed to the sticks and Mo’unga gave the All Blacks a 8-6 lead.

While France were pinged at the kick restart, their clumsy mistake worked out well as the home side won a scrum penalty and Ramos’ long boot saw them re-take the lead after 29 minutes.

The home side dominated the next few minutes but weren’t able to build their lead, as Ramos missed from out wide and New Zealand defended well.

But Ian Foster’s men would have rued not scoring on the stroke of half-time as they found the touchline in stead of their intened target.

Mark Telea scored a double, including the tournament’s opening try, against Les Bleus at Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Telea’s early second half try put a nation on edge, but the class of France’s playmakers and their brilliant back-row, led by Gregory Alldritt, ensured Penaud’s response after 55 minutes.

From there France never looked back and the nation’s anxieties were eased at once.

The win almost certainly will see France progress through to the quarter-finals in top spot, with Italy their next highest ranked opponents and Uruguay and Namibia also in the group.





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