The current health crisis has forced the authorities to stop all rugby competitions in Europe. The opportunity to highlight the most beautiful, legendary and unforgettable matches in the history of rugby. Fourth memorable meeting: the glorious victory of the XV of France against the All Blacks of Jonah Lomu, in the semifinals of the 1999 World Cup.
In a delicate period for the country, it was unthinkable not to return to this match which is still considered one of the best scores rendered by the XV of France. In addition, it is accomplished against New Zealanders at the top of their game at that time (Cullen, Umaga, Mehrtens or of course Lomu composed this workforce of legends).
Before the match, the natural favorite was New Zealand, with a perfect group stage (demonstration against England) and a quarter final mastered against Scotland (winner of the 5 Nations Tournament at the start of the year). Opposite, if the Blues carried out a very beautiful competition, in spite of having beaten supposedly weaker teams, the debacle of the Tournament, with a last place with the key remained in the heads of the French. They therefore presented themselves as outsiders in this half. But is it not the preferred position of the Blues?
A balanced start to the match
This beginning of the meeting is reduced to a round of observation. These are the scorers who stand out, Andrew Mehrtens responding twice to the first points scored by Titou Lamaison (6-3 in the 18th minute). However, these first 20 minutes will allow the actors to assess the forces involved. These are the French who will succeed in going for the first time into the in-goal of the Kiwis, with a Christophe Dominici of the big evenings, on the initiative. After a breakthrough of almost 40m, the Francilien was caught 5m from the line and on a well-felt reversal, Lamaison left to flatten the first try of the match to allow his team to regain the advantage (6-10 to the 21st ). Quickly the Blacks stick to the score through their opener.
The Lomu show
Little in sight since the start of the match, the best player of the time (in the history of rugby for some) comes out of his box to take everything in his path and wake up his partners with a first dazzling Mons-Tru-euse . After a candle badly received by the 3rd French curtain, the balloon arrives on its wing … The rest of the action is history. 7 players reviewed, an impression of power pushed to its climax, the winger marks one of his best attempts (similar to that registered against England four years ago) and gives the advantage to the Blacks. An advance that they will not lose until the end of the first half, with the bonus of a new penalty which allows to increase it (17-10 at halftime).
The Black bus was not going to stop in such a good way and as soon as it returned to the field, after having beaten four new defenders it would go away to score a double to widen a preponderant gap in this meeting (24-10 at the 45th minute). One man will have been enough to rock this match, for now …
The “French flair”, main actor of a majestic ascent
This comeback is initiated by the infallible Lamaison, who in the space of 7 minutes will give this match back a very special flavor. The one where the sensation of a resounding feat was at hand. Thanks to 12 points, including two drops, he almost made up for the delay caused by Lomu’s trials (24-22 at the 54th). In the continuity of the dismissal, the XV of France scratches the ball in a ruck in the middle of the field. Galthié decides to occupy the ground, but the New Zealand coverage seems rather good …
With the help of a capricious rebound, this devil of Dominici always on the lookout, will surprise everyone and intercept this ball to register the second French try (24-29). The French regain an advantage that they will not leave until the end of the match. Footwork will ultimately be the fatal weapon of this end of the game, Richard Dourthe will take advantage of that of Lamaison to take off (24-36). Like Philippe Bernat-Salles, who after a game at the foot of his opener and a mad race of 80m, will endorse the last opposing hopes (24-43). Despite the Black’s pride in the siren, the unthinkable will come true …
A success (31-43) at Twickenham who sent the team of Jean-Claude Skrela and Pierre Villepreux to a second world final (after that of 1987), once again lost. The fact that the Blues had changed status after this epic semi-final was surely one of the factors of this failure.