New Zealand scored nine tries to demolish France and record the biggest victory in World Cup quarter-final history.
A lot of the pre-match talk had centred on France’s quarter-final upset against New Zealand in this same Millennium Stadium in 2007, but a repeat was never on the cards as the All Blacks coasted to a crushing 62-13 success to set up a semi-final meeting with South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
South Africa’s 42-14 win over Samoa in 1995 was the largest previous win in a World Cup quarter-final, but that was removed from the record books by the holders.
New Zealand led 29-13 at the break but really ramped it up after the interval as France, dogged by stories of revolt and rebellion in the build-up, were swept aside in embarrassing fashion.
Wing Julian Savea led the way with a hat-trick and Brodie Rettalick, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read and replacement Tawera Kerr-Barlow (2) also scored.
New Zealand might have beaten France 8-7 to win the World Cup on home soil in 2011 but there were still plenty of Cardiff demons to exorcise.
France had won a thrilling quarter-final eight years ago and Kiwi greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, the two New Zealand survivors from that night, might well have recalled that defeat as they took to the field.
Les Bleus came into the contest amid talk of rebellion in the camp, with the players said to be so disaffected with coach Philippe Saint-Andre that they had taken charge of selection and coaching for this game.
Whatever the truth, this was certainly an ignominious end to Saint-Andre’s time as France coach.
Nonu broke into the 22 in the first minute to establish a period of pressure which ended with Carter’s seventh-minute penalty. Scott Spedding levelled within two minutes with a penalty from inside his own half.
But parity lasted less than two minutes as Retallick charged down Frederic Michalak’s kick and the All Blacks lock charged through unimpeded for the game’s first try.
To add injury to insult it was Michalak’s last involvement as the stand-off headed down the tunnel with hamstring damage and was replaced by Remi Tales. Morgan Parra then missed a penalty from in front of the posts which would have made it a one-point game.
New Zealand showed their attacking ability when the ball was moved from left to right after Carter’s drop goal attempt had been charged down. Conrad Smith and Nonu moved the ball on for Nehe Milner-Skudder to beat opposite number Bruce Dulin and his pace took him clear of full-back Spedding.
New Zealand gave the impression that they could score every time they entered the France 22 and Carter’s sublime pass out of the back of his hand gave Savea a clear run to the line. Carter converted for a 24-6 lead and it was looking increasingly desperate for France, but four minutes before the break they were given a lifeline after Bernard Le Roux had failed to accept a pass. The ball bounced kindly for Louis Picamoles and he shrugged off the attention of two defenders to make it to the line.
But New Zealand responded instantly when Ben Smith beat Picamoles to a Carter garryowen and started a move which ended with Savea finishing like the bulldozing former All Blacks great Jonah Lomu in the corner. Savea ran through his opposite wing Noa Nakaitici and Spedding before shrugging off prop Rabah Slimani to hand the All Blacks a 16-point interval advantage.
France started the second half with renewed vigour but they were reduced to 14 men within seven minutes when Picamoles was yellow-carded for shoving his fist into the face of McCaw.
France were also punished on the scoreboard when they ran out of numbers wide out and flanker Kaino sauntered in at the corner.
It was now a case of how many tries for New Zealand and Savea wrapped up his hat-trick, Read strolled in and Kerr-Barlow’s support skills gave him two easy tries.
New Zealand: B Smith; Milner-Skudder, C Smith, Nonu, Savea; Carter, A Smith; Crockett, Coles, O Franks, Retallick, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw, Read. Subs: Barrett for Milner-Skudder (41), Williams for C Smith (52), Kerr-Barlow for A. Smith (65), Moody for Crockett (28), Mealamu for Coles (60), Faumuina for O. Franks (51), Vito for Kaino (65), Cane for McCaw (68).
France: Spedding; Nakaitaci, Dumoulin, Fofana, Dulin; Michalak, Parra; Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani, Pape, Maestri, Dusautoir, Le Roux, Picamoles. Subs: Bastareaud for Dumoulin (61), Tales for Michalak (11), Kockott for Parra (68), Debaty for Ben Arous (61), Szarzewski for Guirado (56), Mas for Slimani (60), Nyanga for Pape (47), Chouly for Picamoles (72).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales). Attendance: 72,000.