New look All Blacks, same New Zealand as Wales swatted aside despite a brilliant display
Published 11/06/2016 | 11:32
Wales' long wait to beat New Zealand continues after a powerful second-half performance from the hosts in Auckland ended with Warren Gatland's side being defeated 39-21.
Wales led the world champions 18-15 at half-time after a breathless opening 40 minutes, with Taulupe Faletau and Rhys Webb both scoring while Dan Biggar kicked 11 points as they threatened to pull off a shock.
But Waisake Naholo scored his second try before captain Kieran Read and Nathan Harris added to Julian Savea's early effort.
Alun Wyn Jones led Wales out at Eden Park in acknowledgment of his 100th cap for his country but the lock conceded the game's first penalty inside the opening minute.
Aaron Cruden, picked to replace retired World Player of the Year Dan Carter, struck the post with his kick but New Zealand almost capitalised.
Owen Franks recovered the ball and Cruden kicked through but Wales full-back Liam Williams beat Read to it.
Cruden opened the scoring with a penalty just moments later but Wales stunned the Auckland crowd with the game's first try.
Ken Owens recovered Biggar's high kick, Williams beat Savea and Wales shifted the ball across field through George North and Hallam Amos for Faletau to score in the left-hand corner.
Biggar was unable to convert from the touchline and New Zealand replied in robust style with two tries in the space of four minutes.
Naholo was allowed space to attack and fellow wing Savea collected a cross-field kick from Cruden to score his 39th Test try.
Ben Smith then launched a blistering counter-attack as Wales pushed forward that ended with Naholo strolling in from 30 yards out.
Williams was alert and was twice involved as Biggar cut the deficit to 15-11 on 25 minutes with a brace of penalties.
The full-back then sparked the counter-attack with a blistering break between locks Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano that saw Webb stretch out for his seventh Test try.
Biggar converted from close to the posts and Wales were back in front after half an hour's play.
They went close to extending that on the stroke of half-time when Jonathan Davies almost latched onto Biggar's clever kick through with the outside of his boot.
Davies and Ross Moriarty then came within a yard of the line from the resulting scrum before Amos was pushed into touch. Wales suffered an injury concern early in the second half when Jones suffered a heavy collision with the shoulder of prop Franks but the veteran returned from a head injury assessment.
Leading 21-18, Wales were forced to defend as the All Blacks stepped up the pressure. Webb did well to deny Malakai Fekitoa but Cruden levelled with his second penalty.
Biggar was short with a speculative long-range effort but Wales regained the lead in the 52nd minute after North's powerful burst. Cruden's inconsistency in front of the posts continued as he sliced the chance to draw level a second time seven minutes later.
But the All Blacks found another gear to score three tries in the final 18 minutes.
Naholo crashed over from a close-range tap-penalty to regain the lead. Gatland threw on the replacements after 65 minutes but New Zealand struck next as their replacement Patrick Tuipulotu sent Read over.
Both sides saw tries ruled out by referee Wayne Barnes. TJ Perenara's effort was cancelled out for a borderline forward pass from Cruden before Faletau was ruled in front of Gareth Davies when the scrum-half kicked ahead.
New Zealand then rubbed salt into the wounds when replacement hooker Harris finished a breakaway score to inflict a heavy loss on the scoreboard.