A vastly-improved defensive effort carried the Kiwis to a 48-0 victory over France in their second Rugby League World Cup match in Avignon today.
After leading 18-0 at halftime, the New Zealanders added another five tries all converted by Shaun Johnson to race away with the result. providing the first blow-out scoreline of the tournament.
It was a huge let-down for expectant home fans who had filled the stadium with a jam-packed crowd of 17,500 but the Kiwis were in no mood for charity.
Coming off a mixed nights work against Toa Samoa, the New Zealand coaching staff and players had insisted on ramping up their efforts across the park.
While they were still guilty of more errors than they would have wanted 14 their defensive work was outstanding as evidenced not just by the clean sheet but also a tally of only 12 missed tackles.
Johnson, who scored 24 points from two tries and eight from eight attempts at goal, was given the official man of the match award but plenty of other players had their hands up for it, too.
While the score suggested a stroll it was anything but a cruise.
Having scored as early as the fourth minute through a Krisnan Inu try off a Kieran Foran kick, the Kiwis had to wait until the second half before they really broke the French down.
The aerial route proved profitable initially, delivering not just Inu's try but also the second to Bryson Goodwin in the 24th minute. Right on halftime Frank-Paul Nuuausala had the first of his two tries to give the Kiwis a solid 18-0 buffer.
The Issac Luke-Johnson combination reaped rewards twice in the space of four minutes early in the second half, Luke scooting right and feeding Johnson inside for his first and then breaking clear on the left before linking with Johnson on his right shoulder for the second. Both times Johnson went across behind the posts to blow it out to 30-0.
The night was finished with tries to Greg Eastwood, Nuuausala and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as the Kiwis proved to be too big and too strong for the game home side.
It was emphasised in the stats which showed the Kiwis making 1600-plus metres and the French not much more than 800. Six of the forwards topped 100 metres, Ben Matulino leading the way with 196 while Tuivasa-Sheck made 154 metres.
The Kiwis will havea couple of days in Nice before returning to England for their final Group B match against Papua New Guinea at Headingley next Saturday morning (NZT).
At Parc des Sports, Avignon
New Zealand Kiwis 48 (Shaun Johnson 2, Frank-Paul Nuuausala 2, Krisnan Inu, Bryson Goodwin, Greg Eastwood, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Shaun Johnson 8 conversions).
Halftime: 18-0 Kiwis.
Referee: Phil Bentham (England).
Kiwis: Kevin Locke; Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Krisnan Inu, Bryson Goodwin, Dean Whare, Jason Nightingale; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; Ben Matulino, Issac Luke, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Frank Pritchard, Alex Glenn; Simon Mannering (c). Interchange: Elijah Taylor, Sam Kasiano, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Greg Eastwood.
France: Morgan Escare; Frederic Vaccari, Jean-Philippe Baile, Vincent Duport, Cyril Stacul; Thomas Bosc, Theo Fages; Olivier Elima (captain), Kane Bentley, Remi Casty; Kevin Larroyer, Sebastien Raguin; Andrew Bentley. Interchange: Gregory Mounis, Jamal Fakir, Benjamin Garcia, Mickael Simon.