It was close, but in the end New Zealand broke Welsh hearts yet again after beating their hosts 19-12 at the Millennium Stadium.
It was close, but in the end New Zealand broke Welsh hearts yet again after beating their hosts 19-12 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Wales came agonisingly close to breaking their 56-year duck, but only have themselves to blame for yet another defeat in a game that could have easily ended in a draw.
With just three minutes left on the clock and seven points behind, an intercept by lock Alun-Wyn Jones had the capacity crowd on their feet. Tired, battered and bruised, 60 metres to the All Blacks' try-line looked like 60 miles for the second row forward.
He did well enough to get to New Zealand's 22, but with red jerseys to his left and his right – the final pass found a black one instead and all hope of a match-saving touchdown was lost in an instant.
Cool, calm and collected, Dan Carter also produced a big try-saving tackle on Welsh replacement Martin Roberts after a superb Shane Williams burst. Replays showed it to be high and Carter was booed off by the home fans after being named man of the match.
Fair play to the All Blacks though, they dug deep when it mattered and closed the game out with precision after several last-ditch efforts from the Welshmen.
Wales, determined as ever in front of their passionate home crowd, took the game to New Zealand and would have taken plenty of heart heading into the half-time sheds with the scores locked at 6-6. It was definitely a fair reflection of the first forty, as there wasn't too much separating the two sides as far as possession and territory was concerned.
The All Blacks used the kicking game more often than not during the first half – an obvious tactic considering Carter passed the ball just once in the opening 20 minutes. Wales on the other hand were far more creative and looked dangerous on attack – only to cough up the ball at crucial moments.
Wales had a chance to open the scoring early on, but a missed goal attempt from Leigh Halfpenny from 48m out, instead allowed New Zealand the honour of posting first points on the board courtesy of a trademark Carter penalty in the twelfth minute.
With Halfpenny guilty of missing and giving away a penalty in the space of five minutes, relief was written all over the young wingers face when fly-half Stephen Jones stepped up to level the scores after Richie McCaw's illegal dabbling in a ruck.
The All Blacks thought they finally cracked the Welsh line, only for the TMO ruling a blatant knock-on by Brendon Leonard. But referee Craig Joubert was playing advantage to the visitors, and Carter was on hand to put the Kiwis back in front.
The see-saw battle continued, but Stephen Jones wasn't kidding around with his second successful kick of the night that leveled the scores with half-time looming after prop Neemia Tialata was blown for not rolling away in the tackle.
Carter handed the All Blacks the lead after just three minutes of the second-half when veteran flanker Martyn Williams played the ball as the Kiwis pressed the Welsh line.
With both sides now running the ball, and full-back James Hook in particular fielding all kicks with aplomb, it was the Welsh defence which buckled, letting hooker Andrew Hore burrow in for a try in the corner which Carter converted for a 16-6 lead.
The visitors' tails were suddenly up as big lock Brad Thorn rumbled 30 metres upfield to set up an attacking position the Kiwis almost capitalised on. And then Conrad Smith was held up over the line by Shane Williams after a slick interchange of passes in midfield.
Wales were struggling to get out their own half – let alone get their hands on the ball – and Carter added a fourth penalty in the 65th minute when Andy Powell infringed on the floor.
Stephen Jones hit straight back after McCaw was penalised again for a 19-9 ball game as Wales finally managed to break out of their own half.
But it was that man Carter again who was on hand to produce a covering, albeit high, try-saving tackle on replacement scrum-half Roberts after Shane Williams had stepped away from his marker.
Jones claimed a fourth penalty from out wide with five minutes to play to set up a nail-biting finish.
Alun-Wyn Jones then intercepted a sloppy Jimmy Cowan pass, but the excellent Zac Guildford, making his debut on the wing, tracked back and knocked down the Welsh lock's effort to offload.
Wales then squandered a line-out on the All Black five-metre line and were turned over in midfield by the incomparable midfield pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Smith to ensure New Zealand got their European tour off to a perfect start.
Man of the match: New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter masterminded the All Blacks in both defence and attack, kicking four penalties and a conversion to make it a perfect 13 from 13 on the tour so far.
Moment of the match: Andrew Hore's try certainly proved the difference between the two sides, but it was Alan-Wyn Jones' intercept that really put everyone's heart in their throats!
Villain of the match: None to speak of. Good, clean fun in Cardiff.
Pens: S Jones 4
For New Zealand:
Pens: Carter 4
Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Paul James, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Dafydd Jones, 20 Martin Roberts, 21 Jonathan Davies, 22 Tom James.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Brendan Leonard, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Ben Smith.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)