Sunday, November 28, 2010
Despite the final score, New Zealand were made to work hard for a 25-37 win over a spirited Wales side to seal their Grand Slam tour of the home nations.
Stephen Jones kept the home side in the game, but scoring five tries to one, two in the last ten minutes, New Zealand pulled away to continue an unbeaten run against Wales that stretches back to 1957.
Wales were the first to score through a Jones penalty, but the All Blacks responded immediately with good hands from Sonny Bill Williams sending Hosea Gear into the left corner for an unconverted score. Dan Carter then added a penalty that took his international points tally past Jonny Wilkinsons 1178.
Carter, who made his test debut against Wales in 2003, had, by his standards, an off day with the boot, but was his typical mercurial self in open play, returning an aimless Wales clearance to put full-back Mils through untouched for another unconverted try.
Wales, looking to make up for a lacklustre performance against Fiji last week, did gain some parity through their forwards, who tested the All Blacks in the scrum, and through Sam Warburton who looked to match McCaw in the loose. Centre Tom Shanklin also caused problems for the Kiwi defence.
Yet Wales couldnt turn the pressure into a score, and inevitably conceded to a ferociously talented All Blacks side that continues to play sparkling rugby, as demonstrated when a poor miss-kick to touch was punished by Hosea Gear who squeezed past George North for his second score.
This proved to be the turning point in the match, and paved the way for man of the match Jerome Kaino to tear through the Welsh defence to put wing Toeava in for a score and for scrum-half Jimmy Cowan, whose style of play typifies the All Blacks finesse, provided a deft inside flick to allow replacement prop Afoa to storm in for a fifth New Zealand score.
Although Lee Bryne crossed for a consolation Wales try, welsh head coach Warren Gatland was critical in his post-match analysis. In reference to Wales misskick, he said "It was massive, wasn't it?
"We had got back to 13-12, we had all the momentum and we looked strong defensively at that stage. We had some confidence behind us and I thought the All Blacks looked a bit rattled, but to miss touch and have them score from it was a big moment in the game, and those are the things we need to eradicate from our game as those are key moments that can be costly."
However, Gatland insisted there were positives to take from Wales winless autumn series:
"The scrum went well. We are disappointed but there is plenty to take from meeting the best side in the world and the players know with a bit more accuracy they are not too far away."