Sunday 17 November 2019

Ben Smith shines as All Blacks sign off from Japan with bronze medal after six-try win over Wales

New Zealand 40 Wales 17

New Zealand's Ben Smith is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try
New Zealand's Ben Smith is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try

Ruaidhri O'Connor at the Tokyo Stadium

All week, the All Blacks simmered and nursed their hurt. They spoke with emotion about their defeat to England and then they vented their pent up frustration on Wales.

This was less about atonement and more about sending a number of great players out on a high.

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Ben Smith came in from the cold and managed a brace, Kieran Read was all fast feet and quick hands and Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty got their groove on after half-time before taking the acclaim.

Up in the coaches' box, Steve Hansen got one last win to savour before joining Read in Toyota, while Warren Gatland leaves Wales with one last defeat against his old his team.

This always looked like a bridge too far for a Welsh team already down a number of key men with just a five-day turnaround from their semi-final defeat to South Africa but they played their part in a good game.

It's the match nobody wants to play in, but they made a decent fist of it; mustering eight tries between them in an entertaining affair to secure the bronze medals and finish third in the world.

The All Blacks were always in control, Kieran Read indicated that his side were here for the win when he pointed to the posts after Nicky Smith got caught on the wrong side of a ruck but Richie Mo'unga hit the post with his effort.

But New Zealand didn't have to wait long for the opening score and, when it came after five minutes, it was a sight to behold.

Aaron Smith and Kieran Read combined beautifully to release Brodie Retallick through a gap in the middle and the big second-row drew Rhys Patchell's tackle, kept his feet and put prop Joe Moody over. Mo'unga's nailed the conversion.

After a Welsh foray into All Black territory came and went without accruing any points, the All Blacks struck again with Aaron Smith putting them in position with an electric break of the back of a retreating scrum, before Dane Coles got them moving forward and Smith executed a neat switch that put Beauden Barrett through for a try.

Wales looked to hit back and, when Scott Barrett got caught on the wrong side of a ruck, they kicked to the corner. Josh Adams went close, but Wayne Barnes was playing advantage and they went to the corner again.

This time, they patiently worked through multiple phases before Patchell pushed a pass to Hallam Amos who stepped inside Mo'unga to score.

The out-half converted, then nailed a penalty after another piece of sustained pressure from the Welsh.

They passed up another chance when Ken Owens couldn't hit his jumper out of touch and, when New Zealand won a penalty from the scrum, they went down the other end and scored their third try through veteran winger Ben Smith who followed up strong runs by Retallick and Shannon Frizell by stepping inside James Davies' tackle and accelerating to the line.

Mo'unga converted and before half-time Ben Smith got his second off a clever reverse lineout play, handing off Tomos Williams brilliantly to finish in the corner.

Mo'unga's conversion made it 28-10 at the break and Ryan Crotty extended the lead minutes after the break as Read picked off an Owens throw and Sonny Bill Williams found his centre partner on his shoulder and he scored.

The conversion was successful and Smith thought he'd grabbed a hat-trick minutes later, but Rieko Ioane knocked another Williams off-load on before the winger's finish.

To their credit, Wales kept playing and managed a superb 15-phase length of the field series that eventually earned them a penalty. They went for the scrum and attacked through 20 phases before Adams went over from close range.

Mo'unga managed his side's sixth try with four minutes remaining, stepping over after a dominant scrum before missing the conversion.

NEW ZEALAND – B Barrett; B Smith, R Crotty (A Lienert-Brown 56), SB Williams (J Barrett 56), R Ioane; R Mo'unga, A Smith (B Weber 56); J Moody (A Moli 56), D Coles (L Coltman 25), N Laulala (A Ta'avao 56); B Retallick, S Barrett (P Tuipulotu 64); S Frizell, S Cane, K Read (capt).

WALES - H Amos; O Lane, J Davies, O Watkin (H Parkes 64), J Adams; R Patchell (D Biggar 47), T Williams (G Davies 47); N Smith (R Carre 44), K Owens (E Dee 44), D Lewis (W Jones 77); A Beard, AW Jones (capt) (A Beard 56); J Tipuric, J Davies, R Moriarty (A Shingler 47).

Ref: W Barnes (England)

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