venue: Parc Des Sports, Avignon
1st November 2013
Full Match Report
Stephen Kearney's men were sometimes good, sometimes patchy as they beat Samoa in their Group B opener last weekend, but they were far improved on Friday as they virtually assured themselves of top spot.
Half-back Johnson and hooker Luke were too hot for Richard Agar's France to handle, with Johnson scoring 24 points and Luke too quick and creative in and around the ruck. The duo really came into their own after New Zealand earned the right to play, slugging it out with the French in a rough opening 30 minutes.
After that it was a free for all, and they duly ran in a total of eight tries for a tournament-high score, achieved even without superstar Sonny Bill Williams who did not feature.
As with last week's win, the Kiwis started well and just four minutes had gone when they touched down for the first time. Kieran Foran's kick from the left fell perfectly into the hands of a rising Krisnan Inu, who duly dotted down his first try in New Zealand colours.
Johnson tagged the goal and then went close to laying on a try with a kick out of hand. His right-to-left chip appeared to be shelled by Cyril Stacul leading to a score for Frank Pritchard, but video referee Shayne Hayne decided Jason Nightingale had committed a knock-on and no try was given.
Kicks were ruining France - even in attack as Andrew Bentley's apparently good 40-20 was not given - and a second try went against them from another one in the 24th minute.
New Zealand had already gone close when Jean-Philippe Baile dumped Nightingale in touch, but when Johnson's kick found Bryson Goodwin, no one could get across to cover and the centre scored.
So accustomed to fielding kicks France nearly conceded down the middle as half-time approached, but were saved by Hayne again. Isaac Luke broke through and after his pass went loose, it eventually found New Zealand Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who torched down the middle to the posts. Hayne, though, called a knock-on against Kevin Locke in the build-up.
But Frank-Paul Nu'uausala made it a trio of first-half scores, taking a no-look pass from Luke under the posts in the 38th minute, giving Johnson an easy conversion.
France had not been outplayed but were finding New Zealand's defence tough to break down, a trait which continued into the second half as Jared Waerea-Hargreaves drove Freddy Vaccari into the ground as he closed in on the corner.
The hosts' inability to find gaps was costing them and with 51 minutes gone New Zealand showed them the way once more. Luke nipped away from the ruck and had Johnson on his inside who did the rest, adding the goal for good measure.
The same duo linked up in identical fashion four minutes later to add another six points - Luke far too clever and quick for France - before Greg Eastwood barged his way over for a sixth try which was also converted.
Morgan Escare nearly got a consolation for France as he went the length of the field on an intercept before Locke swept up, and play quickly went back to the other end as Nu'uausala dragged two men over with him for his double.
An eighth score would follow with the last play of the game too, Tuivasa-Sheck reaching out after a scramble, with Johnson maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot.
Locke, Nightingale, Goodwin, Inu, Tuivasa-Sheck, Foran, Johnson, Matulino, Luke, Waerea-Hargreaves, Pritchard, Glenn, Mannering, Taylor, Kasiano, Nu'uausala, Eastwood.
Escare, Vaccari, Baile, Duport, Stacul, Bosc, Fages, Elima, K Bentley, Casty, Larroyer, Raguin, A Bentley, Mounis, Fakir, Garcia, Simon.