Gatland praises Welsh efforts in crushing defeat
New Zealand 36 Wales 22
Head coach Warren Gatland hailed the never-say-die attitude of his Wales side in Wellington yesterday, despite the fact that the All Blacks wrapped up the three-Test series with a game to spare .
Much like last week, Wales were well in the contest at half-time. New Zealand struck through Israel Dagg after Dan Biggar had landed a penalty to put them in front.
Alun Wyn Jones dotted down at the corner on the stroke of half-time, before Biggar converted from the touchline to level the scores at 10-10 at the break, but the world champions went on to score 26 unanswered points to make sure they clinched the three-match series with a game to spare.
Ben Smith broke clear to kick off the try-scoring before Beauden Barrett, Waisake Naholo and Ardie Savea crossed. Liam Williams broke clear to score from 50 metres to spark a late fightback, but by the time Jonathan Davies had used all his strength to barge over, it was too little, too late.
Gatland was, however, proud of the way Wales fought to the last.
"The courage to keep playing and not to give up is a huge tick," he said. "We had 58 per cent territory and possession tonight and that's a massive number against the All Blacks - we've never done that before.
"I'm pretty proud about that performance. There were a couple of key moments which were the difference. We're creating chances and the players are already aware of a couple of things that next week they will do a little bit different because they've already learned from tonight. They are clinical and those are the small margins that we need to be better at. It's about freshening them up this week and having a real crack in Dunedin.
"We've learned a lot about ourselves this week. We'll be thinking that we can get better again next week. The big thing for us is continuing to compete against the best team in the world. We'll learn a huge amount from this series. They tried to create some tempo in the last 20 minutes, but we were the ones who kept playing."
Gatland handed Rhys Patchell a first Test start and the Kiwi coach was happy with the flyhalf's performance.
"I was pleased with the way Rhys went. There were a couple of things defensively that he can work on. He showed some nice pace in that wide channel."
Captain Sam Warburton insists his team will not give up on their expansive approach despite the defeat.
"We'll never give up. We want to try and throw the ball around a little bit," he said. "New Zealand have proved why they're the best team in the world. They were extremely clinical, we made two or three mistakes that led to two or three tries again. That was a huge momentum swing then."
All Blacks captain Kieran Read admitted his side had been made to work very hard by Wales. "It was a tough Test match. The Welsh are a really battle-hardened team and kept flying at us," he said. "We got a bit of extra ball in that second half and were able to make it pay. They are an exceptionally good side, they really pushed us and attacked really well. They made us defend for long periods of time and made us work really hard for our win, and thankfully we've got a team which does that, which is great."
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