All Blacks in top Gear to leave Wales behind

Wales 25 New Zealand 35
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Wales huffed and puffed but were given a brutal lesson by the best team on the planet. The Dragons stayed in the hunt for 68 minutes, thanks to 18 points from Stephen Jones. But while the All Blacks were matched in most departments, they could not be touched when it came to clinical finishing as Hosea Gear (twice), Mils Muliaina, Isaia Toeavaand John Afoa scored tries.

Dan Carter broke Jonny Wilkinson's world Test points record, taking his total to 1,188, and Jones became the eighth player to pass 900. A last-minute try by Lee Byrne reduced the damage for Wales but only hinted at what could have been.

Winston Churchill was prime minister the last time Wales beat the All Blacks, in 1953. The current Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, was brave with his selection. Four Welshman faced their first Haka. It was led by Gear, and he went on to have an eventful first five minutes. Just 41 seconds into the match, the wing was penalised for a late tackleon Jones, who kicked the penalty.

New Zealand responded by scoring a try on their first attack. A penalty to touch set up a line-out but it was the basketball skills of the centre Sonny Bill Williams that opened the door for Gear in the fifth minute. Williams sucked in both Welsh centres before lobbing the ball to Isaia Toeava. George North was caught flapping at his opposite number, who bounced off Gethin Jenkins before giving Gear the try.

Carter missed the conversion but within five minutes came the moment the world had been waiting for since the All Black fly-half made his Test debut, against Wales, seven years ago. James Hook was penalised for not releasing and Carter kicked the penalty, taking his points tally in Tests to 1,179, a world record. It was the second time the Millennium Stadium had witnessed the feat – Wales's own Neil Jenkins set an earlier version of the record in 1999.

The game opened up and Toeava and Carter were given an age to set up an attack before Mils Muliaina injected pace, swatting aside Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones and galloping in from 35 metres. However Carter is, in fact, human – he missed four of his first five kicks – and Wales clung on. The Welsh line-out had crumbled but their scrum is a genuine weapon and two penalties by Jones, after Hook went close to scoring a try, reduced the deficit to 13-9 at the break.

Having cleared their heads from the early blows, Wales gathered their composure in defence and their forwards tore into the black jerseys. Matthew Rees and Alun Wyn Jones led the charge and the pressure told when the All Black flanker Daniel Braid held on to Stephen Jones in the tackle and was sent to the sin-bin. Jones cut the All Blacks' lead to 13-12 and "Bread of Heaven" rang out.

Just as a nation held its breath, however, the 14-man All Blacks pounced, capitalising on Byrne's failure to find touch with a penalty to run play back for a second try by Gear. Three penalties by Jones hauled Wales back into contention again at 23-18, but they lacked the ruthlessness of their opponents. Hook dithered to give Toeava an easy score and Afoa added further injury in the final moments before Byrne raced on to Jones' pass for a consolation try.

Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); G North (Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys), T James (Blues); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Blues), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Blues), AW Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Blues). Replacements A Powell (Wasps) for R Jones, 48; J Thomas (Ospreys) for Lydiate, 48; M Williams (Blues) for Warburton, 75; R Rees (Blues) for Phillips, 78; P James (Ospreys) for Jenkins, 78; A Bishop (Ospreys) for Shanklin, 80.

New Zealand M Muliaina (Waikato); I Toeava (Auckland), C Smith (Wellington), SB Williams (Canterbury), H Gear (Wellington); D Carter (Canterbury), J Cowan (Southland); T Woodcock (North Harbour), K Mealamu (Wellington), O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock (all Canterbury), J Kaino (Auckland), K Read, R McCaw (capt; both Canterbury). Replacements D Braid (Auckland) for Read, 37; M Nonu (Wellington) for Williams, 49; A Boric (Auckland) for Whitelock, 55; J Afoa (Auckland) for Franks, 62; A Hore (Taranaki) for Mealamu, 72; A Ellis (Canterbury) for Cowan, 77; S Donald (Waikato) for Carter, 78.

Referee A Lewis (Ireland).