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Sunday, October 31, 1999 Published at 15:46 GMT

France stun All Blacks

Christophe Dominici sprints past Christian Cullen to set up France's first try

New Zealand 31-43 France

Unfancied France produced arguably the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history with a stunning victory over New Zealand in the second semi-final at Twickenham on Sunday.

Not even the great Jonah Lomu, who scored two trademark solo tries, could prevent the French from completing a famous hit-and-run.

The BBC's Ian Robertson: "It was vintage French rugby"
It was an extraordinary performance from the European team, who were given a standing ovation by an appreciative 70,000 crowd in south-west London.

The All Blacks were overwhelming pre-match favourites to finish off the last northern hemisphere side left in the tournament and take their place in next week's final against Australia.

But the French, who had stuttered throughout the tournament and only reached the last four thanks to a favourable draw, had done their homework.

Christophe Lamaison masterminded the giant-killing, with an inspirational display at fly-half, but there were French heroes all over the pitch as the much-hyped All Blacks - clearly affected by complacency - were put in their place.

[ image: Jonah Lomu careers through a sea of French bodies for his first try]
Jonah Lomu careers through a sea of French bodies for his first try
France took the game to the Kiwis, and they fully deserved to take their place in the final with a mesmerising performance that blended forward power with sublime running from the backs.

Where Lamiason led the way, thundering back row players Olivier Magne and Marc Lievremont followed, while three-quarters Christophe Dominici and Philippe Bernat-Salles ravaged the traditionally impenetrable All Black defence.

Six months ago this French team suffered the ignominy of claiming the Five Nations wooden spoon, but now their place in rugby folklore is assured after they came from 24-10 down to remarkably put 40 points on a XV rated as one of the greatest the game has ever seen.

Kiwi blunders

No-one seemed to give the French a hope beforehand - but they got off to the more impressive start, as New Zealand made a string of uncharacteristic early errors.

[ image: Try-scorer Christophe Dominici is congratulated by Abdel Benazzi]
Try-scorer Christophe Dominici is congratulated by Abdel Benazzi
France took the lead in the very first minute when New Zealand's forwards infringed on their 10-yard line and a nerveless Lamaison landed the penalty.

Andrew Mehrtens, who only passed a fitness test on Friday, slotted two penalties to put the All Blacks in front - but their lead did not last long as the French replied with a superb try mid-way through the first half.

With a brilliant burst, Christophe Dominici raced through the All Black defence, gliding past the likes of Mehrtens and Jeff Wilson, and when he was tackled the ball was quickly recycled for Lamaison to score under the posts.

But then came Lomu's party piece.

The monster wing side-stepped his first challenger, handed off the second and then, when France attempted a desperate rearguard, charged through another six players and dived over the line.

The French captain Raphael Ibanez: "It's a very big success for me"
Even by Lomu's standards it was a phenomenal display of power and pace.

New Zealand, though, continued to make elementary mistakes and the boot of Mehrtens, both from the hand and on the floor, was their one reliable weapon.

With the French defenders continually killing the ball, Mehrtens landed a penalty in first half injury-time to give the All Blacks a fortunate 17-10 lead at the break.

[ image: Kiwi skipper Taine Randell leads the All Black Haka before the match]
Kiwi skipper Taine Randell leads the All Black Haka before the match
Despite going in behind, French hopes were still high at the start of the second period - but another virtuoso Lomu try appeared to quash any optimism.

The awesome Aucklander twice exchanged passes with full-back Wilson and then, with the French chasing shadows, he set off on a blistering run, beating five men before thundering over the line.

When Mehrtens converted to give the All Blacks a 24-10 lead, the contest looked to have been settled.

But Lamaison had other ideas and, taking a leaf out of Janie de Beer's book, the fly-half sent over two drop-goals in quick succession and then punished Kiwi mistakes with a couple of penalties to reduce the lead to just two points.

And within a minute the French were in front. Lamaison chipped over the top and Dominici produced a superb one-handed take, before sprinting down the line to score.

[ image: The great Christian Cullen was a peripheral figure as France ruled the day]
The great Christian Cullen was a peripheral figure as France ruled the day
Lamaison was the key to his side's super-charged performance and, with the French camped on the New Zealand line, he sent over another cheeky chip which centre Richard Dourthe touched down.

With time ticking away New Zealand charged up the other end and still had a chance to pull off victory.

But France's triumph was assured five minutes from time when Lamaison latched onto a loose ball and hacked through for flanker Olivier Magne, who set up Philippe Bernat-Salles for another astonishing score.

Wilson scored a consolation injury-time try - but it did nothing to raise the spirits of an utterly demoralised Kiwi team.

For the second World Cup in a row, the All Blacks have failed to fulfill their promise as odds-on favourites.


New Zealand: 15 Jeff Wilson; 14 Tana Umaga, 13 Christian Cullen, 12 Alama Ieremia, 11 Jonah Lomu; 10 Andrew Mehrtens or Tony Brown, 9 Byron Kelleher; 8 Taine Randell (captain), 7 Josh Kronfeld, 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Robin Brooke, 4 Norm Maxwell, 3 Craig Dowd, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Carl Hoeft.
Replacements: 16 Daryl Gibson, 17 Tony Brown or Bruce Reihana, 18 Justin Marshall, 19 Andrew Blowers, 20 Royce Willis, 21 Kees Meeuws, 22 Mark Hammett.

France: 15 Xavier Garbajosa; 14 Philippe Bernat-Salles, 13 Richard Dourthe, 12 Emile Ntamack, 11 Christophe Dominici; 10 Christophe Lamaison, 9 Fabien Galthie; 8 Christophe Juillet, 7 Olivier Magne, 6 Marc Lievremont, 5 Fabien Pelous, 4 Abdel Benazzi, 3 Franck Tournaire, 2 Raphael Ibanez (captain), 1 Cedric Soulette.
Replacements: 16 Ugo Mola, 17 Stephane Glas, 18 Stephane Castaignede, 19 Arnaud Costes, 20 Olivier Brozet, 21 Pieter de Villiers, 22 Marc de Maso.

Referee: Jim Fleming (Scotland).

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