France made the perfect start on their quest for a first Rugby World Cup title as they beat three-time champions New Zealand to delight the Stade de France in Paris.
The hosts had to fight deep into the final quarter as tries from New Zealand wing Mark Telea inside the opening minutes of both halves threatened to wreck the opening-day party.
Ultimately, though, Thomas Ramos’ relentless boot and a well-worked try from Damian Penaud edged them clear of the enterprising, if fading All Blacks,
A 73rd-minute penalty from Ramos finally put France out of seven-point range on the scoreboard and the home fans could celebrate in comfort as their players hunted for a crowning try.
They found it with three minutes left as Melvyn Jaminet gathered fellow replacement Maxime Lucu’s teasing chip.
France will continue their Pool A campaign on Thursday against Uruguay before meetings with Namibia and Italy.
Victories in all three would guarantee them top spot and a last-eight meeting with the runners-up from Pool B, which contains Ireland, South Africa and Scotland.
New Zealand will know from painful experience that all is not lost.
Four years ago, at Japan 2019, they beat South Africa in the pick of the pool-stage matches, only to watch the Springboks become the first team to lose their opening game and go on to lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy.