All Blacks survive France XV

PARIS – This may not have been a test match, but it was as close as it gets.

On a testing night in Lyon, many of the All Blacks’ second stringers rose to the occasion to stake claims for more time in the coveted jersey.

All, including six on debut, were also given an insight into just how much of a step up this is.

Fuelled by almost 60,000 locals, the electric atmosphere brought a familiar test match edge. On their part, the French delivered, forcing the young, emerging All Blacks to work for absolutely everything.

The All Blacks’ last mid-week match, back in 2008 at Munster’s Thomond Park in Limerick, finished 18-16.

Likewise, this was never going to be straightforward. Not with the French out to avenge their loss last weekend in Paris .

Contrasting approaches were evident. While the French took shots at goal to pursue victory, the All Blacks turned down points to chase tries.

That was until the final 15 minutes, when heat really came on and tables turned as France went into full comeback mode.

Locals were in full voice throughout. They sniffed an upset. The French led by one at halftime, but it looked as though tries from Patrick Tuipulotu and Ngani Laumape, two of the All Blacks’ best, had pushed them clear.

But the French kept coming. Under huge pressure, with 10 minutes left and 10 points the difference, Dominic Bird pinched a crucial lineout steal on the All Blacks’ line after Jack Goodhue received his yellow card.

Replacement French first five-eighth Jules Plisson missed a late conversion to bring them within three in the closing stages.

The All Blacks then desperately defended their line and produced one huge final scrum to seal victory – Goodhue kicking the ball into touch.

It was as tense as can be; the final score a reflection of an epic battle.

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