All Blacks turn up heat to burn off brave Welsh
New Zealand 39 Wales 21
Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30
Close, but no cigar - after 63 years of pain. Wales led the world champion All Blacks at half-time and after an hour, but then fell familiarly away in the final quarter as they became New Zealand's 39th successive home victim.
Warren Gatland will have plenty to feel happy and proud about, but the scoreline in the end will no doubt depress him - especially with the final try from Nathan Harris going in after the hooter had gone. This was their chance to cause an upset, and this tour is only going to get harder.
Wales made an appalling start and conceded two penalties in the opening four minutes to give Aaron Cruden some early opportunities to cure his goalkicking worries. His first effort, from 48 metres, hit the upright, and then he found the mark from much closer range after Ross Moriarty had flopped over the top of a ruck. First blood to the world champions, maybe, but the Welsh response was quick. Ken Owens picked up the pieces after Ben Smith had dropped a high ball and it was worked right to Liam Williams who carried deep into the home 22 on the right-hand side.
Five crisp passes the other way saw Hallam Amos release Taulupe Faletau to dive over in the left corner for the first try of the game to give Wales a 10th-minute lead. But the All Blacks hadn't won 38 games in a row at home, and the last 35 at Eden Park, without being a creative outfit - and when Cruden received 11th-phase possession in front of the Welsh posts, he instinctively knew what to do and kicked to the left for Julian Savea's 39th Test try.
Whenever Waisake Naholo got the ball he looked as though he was going to score - and he did just that midway through the half, after Smith had supplied a moment of aerial magic. Dan Biggar put up the bomb, the home fullback caught it in the air and then brushed aside two Welsh defenders before hitting the open spaces. He carried up to halfway before releasing Cruden. A simple scissors move with his wing allowed Naholo to put his foot on the gas and speed to the posts for a try which Cruden improved. Suddenly, there was a 10-point gap - and it was beginning to look ominous for Wales. But they didn't panic, stayed true to Warren Gatland's pre-match plea to keep on playing and soon got themselves back into the game.
Biggar landed two successive penalties in the space of four minutes. Then came another great thrust from Williams, who cut his way through the All Blacks defence, carried up to the 22 and released Rhys Webb to race to the line and score.
Biggar's conversion made it 13 unanswered points from the visitors, and they almost got another score before half-time. Even so, it was the first time the world champions had trailed at half-time to a northern hemisphere side since England went in 10-6 ahead in Dunedin in 2014.
Composure would have been the call in the Welsh dressing room, and they kept their cool as the pressure mounted. Cruden levelled matters with a penalty at the base of the Welsh posts after the outhalf had almost wriggled over, but then Biggar responded after an earlier miss.
But the All Blacks picked up the pace and took Wales to areas they hadn't been before, and didn't enjoy. The lineout fell apart, they kicked the ball away too much.
In the end, Aaron Smith tapped a five-metre penalty and handed on to Naholo, who carried three men over the line with him. Cruden converted and then added the extras to a try from new captain Kieran Read to create real daylight. The All Blacks looked like scoring every time they had the ball now, and only the intervention of the TMO George Ayoub stopped them from increasing their lead, ruling that Cruden's inside pass was forward.
Scorers - New Zealand: Savea, Naholo 2, Read, Harris, tries, Cruden 4 cons, Pens Cruden 2 pens. Wales: Faletau, Webb, tries, Biggar 3 pens, con.
New Zealand: B Smith; Naholo, Fekitoa (Tamanivalu 75), Crotty, J Savea (Barrett 43); Cruden, A Smith (Perenara 69); Moody (Crockett 49), Coles (Harris 72), Franks (Faumuina 46), Romano (Tuipilotu 54), Retallick, Kaino, Cane (A Savea 60), Read.
Wales: L Williams (Anscombe 65); North, J Davies, Roberts (S Williams 65), Amos; Biggar, Webb (G Davies 72); G Jenkins (Evans 65), Owens (Baldwin 65), Lee (Francis 72), Davies (Ball 72), Jones, Moriarty, Warburton (capt) (E Jenkins 72), Faletau.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Sunday Indo Sport