SAINT-DENIS, France (Reuters) - France were given a reminder of how far they still are from a maiden World Cup title when they were humbled 38-18 in Paris by New Zealand in the first test of their autumn series on Saturday.
The All Blacks scored five tries -- through Dane Coles, Waisake Naholo, who touched down twice, Ryan Crotty and Sam Cane -- with flyhalf Beauden Barrett adding the rest with his boot for the visitors’ 11th consecutive win against France.
Les Bleus, who suffered a string of injury withdrawals, responded with a try by Teddy Thomas, a penalty try and a couple of penalties by Anthony Belleau.
France put on a solid display in the second half but they could not make up the deficit left by their dismal first-half performance.
The New Zealand centres did a great job early on, putting the French defence under pressure.
It took the visitors eight minutes to score a try as hooker Coles touched down after a five-metre scrum, with Barrett adding the extras.
The hosts struggled to get past the halfway line and the All Blacks made it look easy with their second try through Naholo on the right wing.
France reduced the arrears when Thomas dived over at the end of a free-flowing move down their own right flank.
But New Zealand were clearly a cut above and they made the most of Rabah Slimani’s yellow card after the prop was sanctioned for repeated fouls.
Crotty scored the All Blacks’ third try after collecting a fine low kick from Sonny Bill Williams and Cane added another on the stroke of halftime.
However, France hit back after the break, Belleau slotting home a penalty to cut the deficit.
Williams was shown a yellow card early in the second half for an infringement and France were awarded a penalty try as New Zealand lost their composure when captain Kieran Read came off injured in the 47th minute.
“It’s the groin. It’s no biggie but it was big enough to take care of him,” said coach Steve Hansen.
Another Belleau penalty cut New Zealand’s lead to 13 points with half an hour to go.
The Stade de France crowd roared as Thomas again dived over, but Australian referee Angus Gardner ruled that the wing’s foot had touched the touchline before he put the ball down.
But New Zealand sealed a comprehensive win when Naholo scored his second try wide on the right for the All Blacks’ first points of the half, Barrett slotting home the conversion.
France take on South Africa at the Stade de France next Saturday as they continue their search for top form ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Neville Dalton