Planet Rugby

New Zealand take tight Welsh Test

26th June 2010 07:53


Tialata tackled v Wales

Tight: Neemia Tialata struggles past the Welsh defence

New Zealand wrapped up their two-Test series against Wales with a tight 29-10 victory in Hamilton on Saturday.

Once again, it was New Zealand's ability to turn pressure into points that counted, but this time it was from the boot of Dan Carter as the Welsh allowed no repeat of last week's five-try demolition.

Both sides tightened up considerably from the first Test, but the Welsh considerably more so. While the records will show a three-try game, two of those tries came in the final three minutes, one from Wales when they were 19 behind and the game was up, one from New Zealand in the final minute against a Welsh side still too happy for just having scored to think about defending properly.

But for the preceding 79 minutes the Welsh had stifled the All Blacks well enough, only their inability to cope with the new tackle law policy, strictly applied by refere Jonathan Kaplan, gave New Zealand a steady stream of kicked penalties from Dan Carter, which was the game-winning aspect.

Otherwise, it was good news for the Welsh. Their scrum was still the better, despite New Zealand's attempts to change this by installing two new props - that has to be a worry for Graham Henry.

Dan Biggar played a solid game in his first outing against a major nation and showed enough flashes to suggest that more is to come. Rob McCusker, on for the injured Ryan Jones after just twenty-odd minutes, also did not look out of his depth.

And again, the Welsh enjoyed plenty of possession. But this time, the difference between those used to the new law policies and those still finding their feet (as opposed to being caught off them) was glaring. New Zealand's defence was lightning fast to organise at all times, Wales' often left stretched and just plain slower to align. Dare we opine this is because NH players are more used to slower ball as a result of their being used to slowing it down up north, while SH players don't bother any more? We think we do.

The other difference between the teams was New Zealand's consistent ability to at least get to the gain line with the ball in hand. Even from a standing start, their players know how to step and accelerate instinctively towards the gaps and just get that extra yard forward. Wales, on the other hand, just looked hesitant before trying the same, as a result, they kept being tackled behind the gain line and struggling to build momentum, even with a stack of possession.

The same can be said of counter attack: from long kicks, New Zealand players would set off at pace before darting inside and haring at a gap. Later in the game, Leigh Halfpenny's attempt to do the same was marked for its lack of pace and its self-doubt. There was no doubt about it in this game, the SH team was simply half a yard faster everywhere.

Wales made a solid start by Wales as they took a 3-0 lead in the second minute with a Leigh Halfpenny penalty from almost halfway after Cory Jane was penalised for not releasing Tom Prydie.

Both teams looked to use their kickers to gain field position early on in the wet conditions, although young fly-half Biggar had the confidence to step lock Tom Donnelly to make a break out of his own 22.

But after he fed Bradley Davies the attack faltered as the All Blacks swarmed on defence.

Wales then won a five metre scrum but wasted the good opportunity, after initially shoving the All Blacks backwards, when Adam Jones was adjudged to have faded on the hit and Carter cleared from the resulting free-kick.

But the All Blacks were starting to look dangerous with ball in hand as Richard Kahui and Benson Stanley started to make inroads in midfield.

Flanker Gavin Thomas was then caught for incorrect entry at the ruck and Carter levelled the scores with a penalty on 14 minutes.

Another promising attack by the Welsh - which was sparked by a strong run down the right flank by scrum-half Mike Phillips - fizzled out several phases later when Alun-Wyn Jones lost the ball in the tackle.

They were made to pay dearly as New Zealand got the game's opening try on 24 minutes when they spun the ball out wide from a ruck close to the Welsh line and Stanley put Jane in the gap to breeze past Biggar and touch down despite the tackle of Halfpenny. Carter's conversion stretched the home side's lead to 10-3.

There was further woe for the Wales as their skipper Jones limped off with a leg injury to be replaced by McCusker.

Biggar had a chance to close the gap with a penalty when Tom Donnelly killed the ball at the breakdown but the 20-year-old mis-cued completely and the points went begging.

Carter returned the favour a couple of minutes later when he sent a penalty wide but he got another shot at goal on the stroke of half-time when Byrne was sin-binned for a lifting tackle on Donnelly close to the Welsh line and the All Blacks fly-half made no mistake.

More Welsh indiscipline after the break allowed Carter to extend the home side's lead to 22-3 with three more penalties and the game became scrappier as both coaches turned to their benches.

Biggar lost the ball forward on attack after some good strong running by Phillips and then Roberts was held up over the line when Guildford somehow managed to get his body underneath the centre.

More staunch All Blacks defence from a combination of Kahui and Guildford denied Jonathan Davies a minute later before Roberts finally earned some reward for the hard-working visitors.

But it was Cruden who had the final say when he chipped behind the on-rushing Welsh defence. Byrne failed to ground the ball and the young fly-half pounced for his maiden Test try, Weepu adding the conversion.

Man of the match: The effervescent Cory Jane once again sparkled, notching yet another try.

Moment of the match: A nice touch at the end, with Aaron Cruden's first Test try.

Villain of the match: Nothing - even the anthems were nice this time!

The scorers:

For New Zealand:Tries: Jane, Cruden
Cons: Carter, Weepu
Pens: Carter 5

For Wales:
Try: Roberts
Con: S. Jones
Pen: Halfpenny

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Rene Ranger.

Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Craig Mitchell, 18 Deiniol Jones, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Richard Rees, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Will Harries.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

By Danny Stephens

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