Three tries in the final ten minutes helped New Zealand see off a spirited Wales 34-16 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
Three tries in the final ten minutes saw New Zealand – in Richie McCaw’s 100th game as captain – beat Wales 34-16 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
15-16 up on 69 minutes, Wales were sniffing a massive win over the All Blacks. But then fly-half Beauden Barrett’s individual score knocked the stuffing out of the Welsh before Kieran Read and Barrett again sealed New Zealand’s fourth win of their successful end-of-year international tour.
The All Blacks fly-half was clearly given a pre-game message to put the ball behind the rushing defence and he duly found the spaces. However Barrett, who was selected ahead of Aaron Cruden and Dan Carter for the tour finale, didn’t get much possession in decent areas early on in Cardiff.
In fact, the Welsh would take the lead on seven minutes when milestone man Richie McCaw was penalised by English referee Wayne Barnes at the breakdown to offer full-back Leigh Halfpenny the opportunity to slot over a simple penalty. Wales found themselves ahead without New Zealand having even threatened them. New Zealand were indeed struggling to pierce a fierce Welsh defence as hits were halting the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Ben Smith.
They did get the chance to level with a quarter of the game gone when Jake Ball was caught offside but unfortunately for Barrett he was off-target as water-boy Carter watched on. He did make amends on 23 minutes though from halfway after Wales were penalised at scrum time.
While the scoreline didn’t change in the closing 17 minutes of the half, the tackles and intensity meant it was anything but dull at the Millennium Stadium, with Dan Lydiate, Brodie Retallick and the like having adopted the unfamiliar tag of being the stand-out performers.
But in they went at the break as those in Cardiff and at home caught their breath – it would have been interesting to hear the coaches’ briefing to their respective players as Warren Gatland surely would have avoided talking up the possibility of ending their long wait.
Steve Hansen’s words clearly had the desired effect though as from turnover ball in the Welsh 22, the All Blacks went to the left wing where Julian Savea saw off Dan Biggar to end his own drought, picking up a first try against Wales. Barrett added the extras for 10-3.
The lead didn’t last long though as three minutes later number eight Taulupe Faletau set up scrum-half Rhys Webb as Wales levelled matters, scooting over from seven metres out.
If they weren’t already, Wales were clearly beginning to believe that victory could be theirs and when referee Barnes adjudged All Black second-row Sam Whitelock to have failed to roll away at the ruck, Halfpenny took his chance to put the hosts into the lead on 50 minutes.
But as is their wont, New Zealand did a Dublin 2013 on 65 minutes as hands on the left led to Dane Coles racing on before handing the ball to McCaw who was brought down five out. The recycled ball saw Barrett kick cross field to where Jerome Kaino was on hand for 15-13.
The game wasn’t done there though as McCaw found himself penalised by Barnes for side entry as Wales retook the lead, with sharp-shooter Halfpenny again on target off the tee.
But then came a moment of high class individual quality from Barrett as his chip and regather down the right wing moved New Zealand six points to the good with ten minutes remaining.
And it was game over three minutes later when replacement Mike Phillips’ attempted box kick was charged down and Read collected the ball for New Zealand’s fourth try. Colin Slade’s second successful conversion extended the lead to 13 as Wales were stunned.
New Zealand didn’t let up as a cross-field kick found Barrett – now playing full-back – for his brace and with it the rubber stamped win, sending the All Blacks home with a clean sweep.
Man of the match: While he was a little shaky early on, that moment of quality when he floored Wales with a chip that resulted in a key try almost saw Beauden Barrett win this award. But in the end we go for Kieran Read after a tireless effort in Cardiff.
Moment of the match: See above.
Villain of the match: Nothing too nasty to report.
Pen: Halfpenny 3
For New Zealand:
Tries: Savea, Kaino, Barrett 2, Read
Con: Barrett, Slade 2
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin , 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Luke Charteris , 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)