All Blacks lose a pool game for the first time ever as hosts France win Rugby World Cup opener

France's hooker Peato Mauvaka runs with the ball ahead of New Zealand's prop Ethan de Groot

France's hooker Peato Mauvaka runs with the ball ahead of New Zealand's prop Ethan de Groot during their 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool A match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris on Friday. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Published Sep 8, 2023

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Full-back Thomas Ramos kicked 17 points to help France to a thrilling 27-13 victory over New Zealand in Friday's opening game of the Rugby World Cup.

Ramos kicked five penalites and a conversion at a sold-out Stade de France as the hosts, leading contenders for the title, started the tournament in style.

Winger Mark Telea claimed two tries for three-time winners All Blacks, who had led 13-9 with more than half an hour to play but went on to lose their first ever World Cup pool game in hot and humid conditions in Paris.

After a colourful opening ceremony the All Blacks' Haka was well respected by the sold-out Stade de France crowd as well as by Les Bleus.

New Zealand made a late change as captain Same Cane was ruled out, Tupou Vaa'i coming in from the bench with Dalton Papali'i moving from blindside flanker to the openside as No. 8 Ardie Savea took over as skipper, leaving Ian Foster’s side light at the breakdown.

But the All Blacks needed just 93 seconds to lay to bed any idea of a hangover from last month's record defeat by South Africa as Telea collected a Beauden Barrett kick in the corner to score and to silence the French supporters.

Ramos then cut the score to 5-3 with a penalty after Papali'i was pinned at a breakdown after five minutes.

After a frantic opening quarter, Ramos put his side into the lead with a second penalty before Mo’unga responded with one of his own to make it 8-6.

After 25 minutes, the players benefitted from a first of two water breaks with temperatures reaching 29 degrees Celsius (84.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

New Zealand-born France tight-head prop Uini Atonio had the advantage at scrum time and won a penalty that Ramos slotted to make it 9-8 at half-time, with the players seeming happy to have the break due to the sauna-like conditions.

Telea claimed his second of proceedings in the opposite corner, from an original Savea chip kick just three minutes into the second period.

Mo'unga missed another conversion as the home supporters voiced their displeasure at playmaker Mo'unga's assist for Telea, claiming a forward pass, but New Zealand led 13-9.

Jordan yellow

The battle at scrum-half between Antoine Dupont and Aaron Smith was highly anticipated and it was All Black Smith who had the upper hand, scragging Dupont down with well-timed tackles twice just after 50 minutes.

With little under half an hour play, Les Bleus came within inches of the New Zealand line but Mo'unga's perfect last-ditch tackle stopped Penaud from grounding the ball.

Two minutes later, Penaud got his try as fly-half Matthieu Jalibert found him in the same corner before Ramos' touch-line conversion made it 16-13.

Things got worse for New Zealand two phases after the restart as winger Will Jordan was sent to the sin-bin for taking Ramos out in the air, with the momentum swung massively to the home side’s advantage.

Ramos added a fourth penalty to make it 19-13 before Jordan returned from the sin-bin to set up a very tense finish.

Jordan was in hot water shortly after his return for a similar incident but referee Jaco Peyper chose to only award a penalty for his offence, which Ramos gladly kicked to make it 22-13 with seven minutes to play.

The cherry was put atop the French cake as Arthur Vincent went over with two minutes to play, sending the home crowd wild in celebration.

AFP