The Rugby World Cup has never seen such a dominant spanking in a knockout game before and may never again, the All Blacks putting on a clinic. Even with so many standout performers, someone still has to shine the brightest.
Ben Smith 8.5/10
Slippery running and superb under the high ball. Made some crucial bootlace tackles when he wasn’t chiming into the backline or setting off down the wing.
It wasn’t his game today to be the star but he made sure everyone else looked good. Outstanding.
Nehe Milner-Skudder 8/10
When he stayed off the field at halftime, the first reaction was like all the gumdrops had been scooped out of the ice cream. One-man excitement machine and his ability to turn the half chance into his try was a sight to behold.
Bruised shoulder shouldn’t keep him out of the semi-final. Only frailty is physicality in defence but he made up for that with a clutch one-on-one tackle on Louis Picamoles.
Conrad Smith 8/10
The glue held his end of the bargain and made sure the ball got width and with efficiency. Held his and his outside's depth perfectly to the point every sideways movement posed a risk to France.
Tackled true to form and it was his offload that initiated the Milner-Skudder try.
Ma’a Nonu 9.5/10
The best in black from the first minute and in this team performance that's saying something.
Had vasoline on him to go with his gasoline and constantly made the gain line and the only two blights on his game came in the last few moments – his dropped ball over the line a small mercy (merci) for the French.
Passing, heavy tackling, support play of the highest order and the barking he was doing showed he was donning his general stripes.
Julian Savea 9/10
The omens weren’t great at all in the first few minutes after an almost inexcusable mistake but boy did he make amends.
All his second try needed was Keith Quinn screaming his name and we’ve got another Lomu-esque try to feast on for the next 20 years. Brutal bunt offs, one lovely crunching tackle and a hat trick to remind us what he can do.
Daniel Carter 9/10
Faultless throughout, controlled and mesmerised with boot and with hand and popped up when the French got behind the advantage line to make his tackles.
Goal kicking sublime, owned the strategy and his fend-dart-backhand for Savea's first was as good as it gets.
Would have to go down as one of his top three Tests and he's had a few that were okay. Timing his run.
Aaron Smith 8/10
Why did Aaron Smith play one of his better Tests? The halfback never overplayed his hand throughout and kept a level head, differentiating effectively between speed and rush.
Kicked judicially and accurately, passed through small loops and left his individualism in the locker room. Key to the synergy that had the French chasing black shadows.
Kieran Read 7.5/10
Lineout thief, breakdown wrecking ball and workhorse but everyone’s still waiting for the real Kieran Read to stand up.
The simplistic view is he's running minus the GST at about 85% and is saving his best output for last. While not everything is coming off, the VC is doing his share and then some.
Richie McCaw 8.5/10
The consummate soldier, sorry, general. In a morbid kind of way, it was a refreshing sight to see him being picked on again.
It's the ultimate tribute – his scars tell stories of pushing opposition players to the brink of caged frustration. Won more breakdown battles than he lost and was at his rugged best.
Jerome Kaino 9/10
His comments midweek about warming into his work were right on the money and Kaino was back enforcing again like he’d had the leash unclipped.
The only time he shirked the hard stuff was when he found himself on the wing for a rare and deserved try.
Tackled often and ominously, barged his way through some French forwards and was, in one word – dominant. Close to the All Blacks best.
Sam Whitelock 9/10
It's easy to recognise tall guys who are bloody good.
Big Sam has been a sleeping giant all season and pulled his best game out of the kitbag.
Made his vaunted opposition look ordinary in the tight and in the outfield where he owned the air and found himself getting some time on the ball to make ground. Needs to school the Bok tykes next week.
Brodie Retallick 8.5/10
Like Savea, Lurch didn’t make the best start, gifting the French their first points. Like Savea, Lurch made amends, using his extension-ladder arms to charge down Frederic Michalak’s woeful kick and start the procession.
The key to Retallick’s world-class billing is the extras he does and he was all over it, making vital tackles, backing up ball runners, passing and making the plays that Gridiron players bumps chests for – except by the minute.
Owen Franks 8/10
Breakdown blowout master class. Had one goal and that was to treat French tacklers like a stack of empty cardboard boxes.
Body position was indomitable and the fluidity of the ball for Aaron Smith and company had a lot to do with him.
Dane Coles 8/10
The lasting image was his disdainful ripping of the ball for Savea's third but for the most part, Coles was either a continuity link out wide or a burrowing mole at the breakdown with Franks and friends.
Lineout was efficient and he made Guilhem Guirado look very average for a solid hour.
Wyatt Crockett 6/10
Subbed after 28 minutes, 'Davy' looked to have been pulled immediately after he gave a daft penalty five metres out from the French line on attack.
A groin tweak was the instigator for the early change and the All Blacks may have a propping crisis. A movie called 'The Scrum' doesn’t have the same ring to it though.
Keven Mealamu 7/10
Played a key part in Read’s try, finding some room when it became All Blacks festival rugby. Typical focused effort with only two more opportunities left in the black jersey.
Joe Moody 8/10
Wasn't going to be left out of Charlie's carnival and gave an offload that was even better for Kerr-Barlow’s second. Some agile runs one off the ruck and added some real impact outside of his set piece bread and butter.
Charlie Faumuina 8/10
The Zinzan of the current team who wished he was a back but doesn’t have the necessary metabolism or fast twitch fibres to do so.
His beautiful line break and offload in the last tackle to Read was the icing on a pretty damn good cake. Growing his cult status points whilst making sure he does his core job.
Victor Vito 7/10
Limited chances for Vito to get amongst the fun and games but a couple of destructive moments with ball in hand. Had a hard act to follow but wasn’t too far behind.
Sam Cane 8/10
Fantastic cameo with turnovers and productivity his mentor would be proud of. Those cheeky trailing feet at the breakdown will catch him out soon though.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow 8/10
Two tries in the space of five minutes put TKB under the spotlight and highlighted his anticipation and busy support game. Who follows props around the field? Mike Cron doesn’t count.
Not amazing elsewhere but didn’t really need to be, distributing well enough. A big tick for his selection – decision making better than his bench predecessor.
Beauden Barrett 7/10
Smart choices with ball in hand and was aware enough to put himself into the pocket when required.
Led the chase line with vigour and was unlucky not to get more moments when the game loosened up. Hand was in some key scoring moments.
Sonny Bill Williams 8.5/10
Was brought on like an encore and didn’t disappoint, getting his offload game going from the outset.
Some lovely touches that make this team the envy of the rugby world. With the game gone, his tackling on a free-flowing French in the last quarter showed his other key asset to the side.