George Nash and William Satch delivered Great Britain's fourth rowing medal of the Olympic Games by winning a bronze in the men's pair.
New Zealand's dominant crew of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray claimed gold in stunning fashion..
France held on to win the silver medal after fighting off Britain's desperate late surge in a thrilling sprint for the line.
Britain have now won a gold, a silver and two bronze medals at the Olympic regatta - with the promise of more to come.
Britain finished the race just out of their lane as they strove to catch the French but they did not impede the race winners New Zealand, who were over two lengths clear of the field.
Satch and Nash only came together in the pair at the start of this year after Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge were moved back into the four.
Reed and Hodge had failed over two years to beat the dominant Kiwi pair and head men's coach Jurgen Grobler decided to maximise Britain's gold medal chances in the four.
Some saw that as Britain sacrificing the chance of a men's pair, but Satch and Nash displayed their podium potential by winning silver at the first World Cup regatta of the year in Belgrade, which they underlined further with an impressive Olympic semi-final victory.
The French set the early pace in the final before New Zealand, hailed as the best boat in the whole Olympic regatta, took control and powered clear of the field in the third quarter of the race.
Britain slipped a length down over the second 500 metres and left themselves just too much to do as France responded to a strong push from Satch and Nash in front of the grandstands to hold on to second place by half a second.