Rugby round-up: All Blacks forced to repel spirited French fightback

 

The All Blacks took until the second half to break open their match against France in Paris and finished it on the back foot as the home side battled to complete what would have been a remarkable comeback before going down 26-19.

Morgan Parra and New Zealand's Dan Carter had spent the first half exchanging penalties as the lead switched first one way and then the other before the sides went into the interval level at 9-9.

However, it took New Zealand only six minutes of the second half to break the game open from 12-12, with a try by the wing Charles Piutau. Carter converted and from there France were chasing the game.

Kieran Read appeared to put the Kiwis in total control when the No 8 went over to stretch their advantage and Aaron Cruden, who had come on for Carter, added the extras.

The French were not beaten though, and in front of a passionate Stade de France crowd they rallied, with the full-back Brice Dulin putting them back in contention with a try that Parra converted.

That set up a rousing final quarter and the French spent the closing minutes camped near the All Black line trying to force an equalising try. But New Zealand stayed unbeaten in 2013.

Two tries from Nick Cummins helped Australia recover from an early deficit to thrash Italy 50‑20 at the Stadio Olimpico.

The winger struck in the 31st and 50th minutes as Ewen McKenzie's side bounced back from their defeat by England at Twickenham last weekend with a commanding display.

Scores from Ben Mowen, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Joe Tomane and Israel Folau completed the rout against a spirited Italy side who scored the game's first try through the Australian-born full-back Luke McClean.

"I won't be happy until we've strung a few wins together. It was a good scoreboard for us today," McKenzie said. "We showed some potency in attack and we worked hard through the game to score those points. To score seven tries in an away game was a good effort."

Australia allowed Italy to get away to a flying start as they opened up a 10-0 lead with a converted try by Luke McLean. Italy never gave up and added second-half tries through Lorenzo Cittadini and Tommaso Allan on his debut.

There was a distinct whiff in the air at Murrayfield where the garlic that the Scottish Rugby Union sprayed on to the pitch, to stop an infestation of nematode parasites from damaging the root structure of the playing surface, did its job.

The Scotland team did not stink. They ran out 42-17 winners over Japan in a six-try performance that should have pleased their incoming coach, who was watching from the stand. He is still down among the garlic eaters until the end of the season while he sees out his contract with Clermont-Auvergne.

Amid the sloppy defence and wayward handling there was some encouraging finishing too for the interim head coach, Scott Johnson, to enjoy. Tommy Seymour scored twice but was eclipsed by his Glasgow team-mate and fellow home debutant, Tim Swinson, who was man of the match after some sterling work in the tight and loose.

Grieg Laidlaw kicked 10 points and scored a try, with Sean Lamont and Alasdair Dickinson also going over.

Ireland fortified themselves for the tasks ahead with a 40-9 victory over Samoa in their first outing under their new coach, Joe Schmidt.

There were only occasional glimpses of the attacking rugby the New Zealander is renowned for in a scrappy match in which Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Fergus McFadden and the debutant David Kearney, with two, scored the tries.

The Ireland defence also had the satisfaction of preventing Samoa from scoring a try for the first time in 26 Tests since 2009.

However, Samoa were hampered by injuries. Already without five senior players, including their tour captain, David Lemi, Samoa saw tighthead prop Logovi'i Mulipola limp off after eight minutes, while a sickening collision of heads in the 56th ended with the fly-half Tusi Pisi taken off on a stretcher, and the winger Brando Va'aulu being helped off.

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