Wales vs New Zealand match report: Final All Blacks power surge stuns Wales

Wales 16 New Zealand 34: All Blacks mark Richie McCaw’s 100th Test as captain with a flurry of late points to leave Welsh broken-hearted again

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The Independent Online

The long wait goes on as Wales failed to solve the puzzle of how to get the better of the All Blacks in a dramatic game in Cardiff.

With 12 minutes remaining, a nation believed their agonising 61-year wait to beat New Zealand could finally be at an end after Rhys Webb’s try and a flow of points from the trusty boot of Leigh Halfpenny.

Yet the champions have that quality of finding a way to win, even when playing poorly, and struck three times in the final 10 minutes to produce a scoreline that barely reflected a tense game.

The lead changed six times as Beauden Barrett’s missed kicks helped Wales stay in a tense game to the sound of Hymns and Arias under the Millennium Stadium roof.

Yet Barrett scored twice and had a hand in two more tries to maintain the longest winning sequence between Tier One nations in rugby history. Queen Elizabeth II had only recently ascended to the throne the last time Wales beat New Zealand, in 1953. At this rate, Prince Charles could be the next monarch to see a Welsh win.

It was a fitting result for Richie McCaw and before the hostilities came mutual respect for the All Blacks captain, leading his country for a record 100th Test.

Yet there were promising early signs for Wales against the threat of McCaw. Not for the first time in Cardiff, New Zealand got on the wrong side of Wayne Barnes, in charge for their defeat here in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final, who repeatedly penalised the visitors at the breakdown.

Wales fancied their chances of taking on the All Blacks at the set-pieces but two of their front row faced the haka for the first time and the step-up in class required proved telling, particularly at the scrum that yielded four penalties and a warning from Barnes inside half an hour.

However, once Wales found their timing at the lineout, having fluffed their opening two throws, Dan Biggar had the chance to unleash the weapons at his disposal.

The opening salvos were predictable with Jamie Roberts asked to take the most direct route into the black jerseys. While it may have been expected by the All Blacks, stopping it is a different task altogether. 

Roberts may have considered attempting a step for all of a split-second before proving even Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith are susceptible to brute force and Halfpenny kicked the opening points from the resulting penalty.

However, the lead was short-lived as problems at the scrum allowed Barrett to level the scores, at the second attempt.

Much was expected from the rival wings but Wales managed to keep Julian Savea under wraps while George North missed the chance to race upfield with a wild swing of his right boot after Roberts clattered Williams.

It was not a good first half for the young man dubbed the ‘Welsh Jonah Lomu’, conceding a line-out with flapping hands, but he made amends by halting Charles Piutau as Wales withstood a late surge.

It was a psychological blow on the stroke of half-time but it takes more than that to take the sting out of the All Blacks, who struck two minutes into the second half.

Toby Faletau looked to have snuffed out the danger but Halfpenny opted to carry the ball a few inches further. The diminutive full-back was inevitably robbed of possession and Smith’s delightful reverse pass found Savea, who shrugged off Biggar to score.

Anyone expecting the floodgates to open had not banked on the resilience of this Welsh team, who were back on level terms within four minutes. The forwards edged their way upfield before Webb delayed his pass to open space for Toby Faletau and then followed to receive the return pass to score for the second game in a row. Halfpenny converted and added a penalty, following another burst by Webb, who was forced off moments later through injury.

His replacement Mike Phillips looked to have saved a try when he combined with Faletau to stop McCaw scoring on his special day. But Barrett remained cool-headed and his perfectly-weighted cross-field kick found Smith, who handed Jerome Kaino an easy finish.

Barrett missed the conversion and when Halfpenny swept over his penalty from distance on 68 minutes, Wales were ahead once again with an entire nation holding its breath.

North left the field bloodied but soon it was the entire Wales team left with a bloody nose with a crushing one-two as New Zealand struck twice through opportunist tries.

The bounce of Barrett’s hopeful chip gifted the fly-half a try unopposed. Wales then failed to protect Phillips, who saw his kick blocked and then scooped up for a try by No 8 Keiran Read. Barrett then finished from another cross-field kick as New Zealand romped home in the final moments.

Line-ups:

Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar, R Webb; P James, R Hibbard, S Lee, J Ball, A W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. .

New Zealand: I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith (R Crotty, 48), S B Williams, J Savea; A Cruden (B Barrett, 60), A Smith (T J Perenara, 67); W Crockett (B Franks, 60), D Coles (K Mealamu, 67), O Franks (C Faumuina, 48), B Retallick, (P Tuipulotu, 41), S Whitelock, J Kaino.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

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