France 0 New Zealand 5
Prop Tony Woodcock scored the only try of a tense and tight opening 40 minutes at Eden Park as New Zealand edged towards a possible first World Cup final triumph since 1987.
France, though, showed they had no intention of being bit-part players, setting the tone by marching over the halfway line as New Zealand performed their traditional pre-match haka.
It never threatened to boil over into a full-blown confrontation, but it was a strong statement from Les Bleus, who then monopolised early possession and territory.
France dominated the opening 10 minutes, looking to move the ball wide, and a nervous All Blacks start was underlined when scrum-half Piri Weepu sent his opening penalty kick well wide.
France suffered a major injury scare 12 minutes into the contest as fly-half Morgan Parra came off a distinct second-best after attempting to tackle juggernaut All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu.
Parra received extensive treatment on the pitch and was then helped off to make way for Francois Trinh-Duc, before Weepu found touch deep inside Les Bleus’ 22.
And the All Blacks pounced, courtesy of flanker Jerome Kaino’s clean lineout take that found Woodcock, who then surged through a gaping defensive hole to score.
Weepu failed with his conversion attempt, but New Zealand had made a telling statement from their first notable attack as Parra returned to the action.
New Zealand were growing in confidence following a nerve-riddled opening, and when Trinh-Duc appeared as a permanent replacement for Parra, he found himself thrust into a defensive role, such was the All Blacks’ mounting pressure.
But New Zealand’s cause was not helped by Weepu’s wayward direction off the tee, and a third successive miss suggested he would need to hand over kicking duties.
France, having managed to repel a series of threatening All Blacks attacks, worked their way back upfield, yet technical indiscipline let them down at crucial periods.
All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden then followed Parra out of the action, limping away to to be replaced by new Bath signing Stephen Donald as Cruden joined fellow New Zealand number 10s Dan Carter and Colin Slade as a World Cup injury victim.
And New Zealand needed to regroup during the interval, having played second fiddle during much of a half that saw Les Bleus produce their best 40 minutes in the tournament.