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Wales 18-33 New Zealand

DAVID NICHOLSON reports from the the Millennium Stadium

THE 64 years of hurt against the All Blacks continues as the World Champions racked up their 30th straight win against Wales on Saturday.

In the opening quarter Wales had 80 per cent possession and spent the same amount of time in the New Zealand half. 

But by half-time the men in black had two attacks and scored two tries.

The home crowd dared to believe at half-time as their side trailed by a single point after a 40-minute try by Scott Williams.

But the signs were there all along that Wales were not clinical enough to take scoring opportunities, while mistakes would be punished.

This was an All Black side that looked tired after a punishingly long season, and was without Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Brodie Retallick, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read and Ben Smith.

They were also making mistakes as the Welsh onslaught brought uncharacteristic handling errors.

Home captain Alun Wyn Jones certainly realised that his side were the authors of their own misfortune and had missed a golden opportunity for a rare win.

“We will rue all of the missed opportunities. The execution is the issue, not the intent.

“We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t say that was a missed opportunity,” Jones said.

And how Welsh mistakes and inaccuracy were punished. 

Within 10 minutes of the second half Wales had an attacking line-out just five metres from the try line, but the ball was stolen by Sam Whitelock.

A wild pass midway through the second half by fly half Dan Biggar was intercepted by the awesome Rieko Ioane, who was off for the score.

But what really summed up the gulf between the two sides was when skipper Whitelock was sent to the sin bin for the final 10 minutes.

The advantage of facing 14 men is usually about 10 points, but in this case it was Wales who were punished.

Wales conceded a penalty and, despite being one man down in the forwards, New Zealand opted for a scrum. 

Their seven against eight Welsh forwards enabled a good enough ball for man of the match Ioane to go over again for the fifth All Black try.

In his post-match comments, coach Warren Gatland rued what might have been had Jonathan Davies and George North been available.

But the downbeat coach sensed the gap between his side and New Zealand was narrowing.

“The All Blacks can’t just put out a second string side against Wales and Scotland and win comfortably,” Gatland said.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praised his side’s defensive strength, especially in the first half.

“We defended well in the first half when we couldn’t get a hand on the ball.”

But it was when the usually dour coach was asked about his two wingers that Hansen beamed.

“Both our wings are pretty special, aren’t they? And Rieko is only 20 years old,” he added.

Gatland was optimistic about his side’s direction as he continues to build for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

“The way we are trying to play is very positive and we have introduced some young players who will have benefited from this experience.

“Next week we have the opportunity to beat South Africa three times in a row for the first time.” 

The Welsh public will be happy if their side win against the Springboks, but it was the loss to New Zealand again that really matters and hurts.
 

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