Unstoppable All Blacks steer clear of choppy Welsh waters
New Zealand 37
Can anybody, or anything, interrupt the majestic progress of the good ship New Zealand as she plots an unerring course towards her final port of call -- Auckland and victory in the 2011 World Cup final?
Graham Henry, evidently something of an old sea-dog when not patrolling the muddy paddocks of New Zealand, was waxing lyrical on Saturday night about those on the bridge of this exceptional All Blacks team. "Dan (Carter) is the navigator, Richie (McCaw) is the captain, that's a pretty special combination," said the New Zealand coach, after his side had successfully negotiated choppy waters in the second half to finish 2010 with 12 Test wins in 13 starts.
It wasn't quite the glorious downwind run the scoreline and a 5-1 try count might suggest. As the action hotted up, Wales, with their tails up, closed to within one point.
We were also treated to that rarest of sightings, an All Black forward being shown a yellow card after transgressing at the tackle area. Daniel Braid, what were you thinking?
New Zealand, down to 14 men, were under the cosh, but their response was exceptional -- three superb tries with Wales only managing a consolation effort through Lee Byrne.
As for Wales, when they need to up the intensity, they fall off for 10 minutes. When they need to be Scrooge-like in defence, they morph into Father Christmas with something for everybody and when they need to find a safe touch, they miss by miles. They are the most infuriating team in world rugby, full of talent but riddled with self-doubt and veering wildly from over-confidence to no confidence at all.
Who is manning the bridge for Wales? (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Wales -- L Byrne; T Shanklin (A Bishop 79), J Hook, T James; S Jones, M Phillips (P James 78); G Jenkins (R Rees 78), M Rees (capt), A Jones, B Davies, A-W Jones, D Lydiate (J Thomas 48), S Warburton (M Williams 75), R Jones (A Powell 48)
New Zealand -- M Muliaina; I Toeava, C Smith, SB Williams (M Nonu 49), H Gear; D Carter (S Donald 78), J Cowan (A Ellis 77); T Woodcock, K Mealamu (A Hore 75), O Franks (J Afoa 62), B Thorn, S Whitelock (A Boric 55), J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read (D Braid 37).
Ref -- A Lewis (Ireland).