SYDNEY — New Zealand outclassed a largely second-string French team 40-13 at the Telstra Stadium in Sydney on Thursday to claim third place in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
The victory will come as little consolation to a rugby-proud nation expecting nothing short of capturing the William Webb Ellis trophy.
To their credit, though, the All Blacks played with the commitment associated with their famous jersey and lifted themselves for a match that was never going to set pulses racing.
“We got a few tries there and it was good to see the guys throwing the ball around,” said New Zealand captain Reuben Thorne. “We didn’t get what we wanted, but the tournament has been great.”
In the end their six-tries-to-one victory was deserved in an otherwise lively yet uninspiring matchup.
The All Blacks had been named the international team of the year the day before and set about living up to this reputation by opening the scoring in the 12th minute through lock Chris Jack.
Once again it was enigmatic flyhalf Carlos Spencer who initiated the break. Robust No. 8 Jerry Collins maintained possession in the resulting ruck before feeding the charging Jack for the try.
The French reduced arears in the 15th minute through Dmitri Yachvili but it was speedy winger Dougie Howlett who extended the gap between the two sides with a well-taken try in the 20th minute.
Fullback Mils Muliaina cut through the French defense after being setup by Spencer. Muliaina’s inside pass found Howlett in open space to blaze over for the try.
A drop goal from Yachvili just before halftime kept the French within distance of the All Blacks but their brave effort was to be destroyed in a ruthless seven-minute spell by New Zealand during which it scored three unanswered tries.
Pepito Elhorga had made it interesting just after the break with a converted try to make the score 14-13 to New Zealand but the scoreline was not to remain that way for too long as the All Black machine rolled into gear.
First Joe Rokocoko strolled over after New Zealand had created a three-man overlap.
Then replacement flanker Brad Thorn made full use of his massive frame to force his way over the tryline.
Muliaina jumped on the bandwagon to score his team’s fifth try of the match after some neat interpassing between Spencer and Aaron Mauger.
As the French began to tire, it was left to the All Blacks to put the final nail in the French coffin when another replacement Marty Holah, with the support of the outstanding Richie McCaw, scored the final try of the game.
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