New Zealand had a 5-0 lead over France at half-time in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup final.
Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock strolled into a big gap in the France lineout from a set move and palmed off one defender to give the All Blacks a 5-0 lead in the 15th minute. It was the first try in a World Cup final since 2003.
Both starting flyhalves left the field injured in the first half — France’s Morgan Parra had a heavy head knock trying to tackle Ma’a Nonu and New Zealand’s Aaron Cruden awkwardly twisted his knee about seven minutes before the break.
In a confrontational start, the French players challenged New Zealand’s haka before kick off, linking arms and advancing to the halfway line in a break with convention.
The atmosphere inside Eden Park was electric with the stadium packed with thousands of supporters mostly dressed in black. The match is a repeat of the 1987 final, won 29-9 by New Zealand, and the All Blacks are overwhelming favourites to win the final and join Australia and South Africa as twice winners of the Webb Ellis Cup.
Both teams made a nervous start to the final with France failing to retain possession from the kickoff then kicking the ball into touch on the full. The All Blacks did most of the early defending but had a chance to open the scoring when they were awarded a penalty in one of their first ventures into French territory.
France looked great in the early stages, dominating possession and testing the All Blacks defence, but suffered an early blow when flyhalf Parra left the field looking dazed and groggy after making a tackle on Ma’a Nonu.
The All Blacks scored first with a try from prop Tony Woodock. France were penalised at the lineout and Weepu kicked the ball deep into their territory. The All Blacks won the lineout and Jerome Kaino tapped down for Woodock who strolled through a giant hole to crash over and score. Weepu missed the conversion while Parra returned to the field for France.
At 27 minutes the All Blacks started to take control, pinning the French inside their own half and threatening to break loose. Morgan, still dazed, left the field again — permanently. France were penalised at the ruck but Weepu missed the shot at goal for the third time.
There was trouble for the All Blacks as flyhalf Aaron Cruden limped off the pitch after injuring his right knee running with the ball. He was replaced by Stephen Donald who was effectively their fourth choice as flyhalf. France missed a shot at drop goal in the last few minutes of the first half and the score remains unchanged.
South African referee Craig Joubert blew the whistle for half-time with New Zealand leading 5-0 after Woodcock’s try. The All Blacks had the better chances in the first 40 minutes but failed to take their chances with Weepu’s three missed kicks at goal costing his team. — Reuters and AP