Reigning Rugby World Cup champions New Zealand delivered an ominous statement of intent, emphatically exorcising their Millennium Stadium demons with a sensational 62-13 thrashing of France in Saturday's second quarter-final.
France ran out shock 20-18 winners when the two sides met at the same stage in Cardiff eight years ago, but were blown away on this occasion as the All Blacks produced a devastating performance to wipe out any doubts over their readiness for knockout rugby following a routine progression through Pool C.
Wings Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea were each responsible for glorious scores in the first half and the latter completed his hat-trick after the interval as the tournament favourites claimed a remarkable nine tries.
The All Blacks' brilliance ensured the match was over as a contest long before the final whistle, their record points haul against France leaving Philippe Saint-Andre's side humiliated.
New Zealand, who move on to face South Africa next Saturday in the last four, have now won 12 successive World Cup matches and few would bet against that record-equalling run being extended to 14 games after this masterclass.
An infringement from Brodie Retallick allowed France full-back Scott Spedding to cancel out Dan Carter's early penalty with a monstrous kick that went over off the right-hand post.
Yet second row Retallick swiftly atoned for his indiscipline, charging down a Frederic Michalak kick and marching over unchallenged for the game's first try.
Michalak was immediately forced off with an apparent hamstring problem, but the All Blacks were then guilty of sloppiness as they conceded two kickable penalties in quick succession, Morgan Parra landing the first.
However, a flash of brilliance from Milner-Skudder put New Zealand firmly back on top, the winger producing a devastating sidestep off the right flank to score a try out of nothing.
If that was impressive, an even better score soon followed as Carter dummied past one defender before producing an outrageous pass out of the back of his left hand to set Savea clear.
Although Louis Picamoles gave France a lifeline, burrowing over after a pass intended for Bernard Le Roux had found the number eight, the All Blacks responded in stunning fashion.
Ben Smith beat Picamoles to a high kick and when the ball was switched wide the powerful Savea bulldozed through three attempted tackles - sparking memories of Jonah Lomu's most famous score at the 1995 World Cup.
Following Milner-Skudder's half-time withdrawal due to a shoulder inury, slim hopes of a France fightback receded as Picamoles was yellow carded for pushing his fist into Richie McCaw's face at a ruck, when France were set to receive a penalty.
New Zealand capitalised on their numerical advantage through Jerome Kaino, who rounded off a sweeping, cross-field move, and Savea streaked down the left for his eighth try of the tournament after Picamoles had returned.
With French spirits seemingly broken, Kieran Read was put over for New Zealand's seventh five-pointer and more delightful handling led to replacement Tawera Kerr-Barlow pushing the score beyond 50 points.
A scintillating All Blacks performance was summed up by prop Joe Moody - called up to the squad last weekend following Tony Woodcock's withdrawal - producing an offload worthy of any back to put Kerr-Barlow over again, before Carter landed his seventh conversion.
Key Opta stats:
- New Zealand have progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the seventh time, more than any other team.
- The All Blacks' 62 points scored against France was the most Les Bleus have ever conceded in a Test match, while the 49-point defeat was France’s second heaviest loss in Test history.
- The All Blacks have won their last 12 Rugby World Cup games, equalling the record for consecutive wins in the tournament (level with Australia, 1999-2003).
- The All Blacks’ third try of the game was New Zealand’s 300th in the Rugby World Cup, no other side has reached 200 (Australia - 198).
- Julian Savea scored his eighth try at this World Cup, equalling the record for most tries in a single tournament (Jonah Lomu, 1999 & Bryan Habana, 2007).