After the previous autumn engagement here a Samoan couple were so moved by the success of their countrymen they chose to name their newborn son Cardiff. After last night's win for the All Blacks, the chances are that not many Kiwi parents will be rushing to christen new arrivals in similar fashion. Not since 1953 have the All Blacks lost to Wales. For the Principality, the pregnant pause continues.
Even with Warren Gatland back at the helm, and the visitors missing Dan Carter, Wales were unable to bring an end to 59 years of fruitless labour. The contest was effectively over by half-time. "It was a reasonable performance," the All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw, said. "Perhaps we did not treasure the ball as much as we could have."
For Wales, the World Cup semi-finalists of 12 months ago and Six Nations Grand Slammers of last spring, it was a sixth successive defeat. They are now four short of their worst losing run, which they endured under the coach now in charge of an All Black team unbeaten in 20 matches. Only England at Twickenham next Saturday stand in the way of Steve Hansen's side completing a calendar year as the new invincibles.
Wales were without several key players themselves, and with two minutes on the clock they lost two more. In a scramble for possession after Julian Savea spilled a Rhys Priestland garryowen, Bradley Davies was felled by a punch from behind by Andrew Hore. The All Black prop remained on the field but the Welsh lock was taken to hospital with concussion.
"I haven't had a good look at it but it didn't look the best," Gatland said. "We'll leave it to the citing commissioner. You don't associate the All Blacks with cheap shots and hopefully it wasn't."
At the same time Aaron Jarvis caught his studs in the turf and the prop was carried off with what Gatland said "looks like a serious knee injury". There was further damage to come. On 19 minutes Jamie Roberts limped off with a hip injury.
By then, the All Blacks already had the scoreboard clicking, Aaron Cruden landing three penalties. New Zealand struck on the counterattack in the 26th minute. Israel Dagg burst forward and fed Savea, who reached the Welsh 22 before being halted by Jack Cuthbert. The ball was recycled at speed and Conrad Smith delivered the scoring pass to the flanker Liam Messam on the right. Cruden's conversion left Wales with a 16-0 mountain to climb and by half-time they were facing a 23-0 Everest.
From a 5m line-out Sam Whitlock palmed down to Tony Woodcock, who barged through to score his ninth Test try. Cruden converted.
Eight minutes into the second half New Zealand had another 10 points on the board, Cruden slotting a fourth penalty and then second-row Luke Romano bulldozering over. Cruden converted and at 33-0 Wales were three points shy of their record defeat at home to the All Blacks.
Averting that ignominy was a minor victory for Wales. With Scott Williams crossing the All Black whitewash from a line-out drive on 57 minutes. Then, with two minutes remaining, Cuthbert scored in the right corner – crumbs of comfort for Gatland and his battered troops.
"The injuries were unsettling for us," the Wales coach said. "We were slow to pick up the speed and intensity but we showed character in an excellent second-half display."
Wales: L Halfpenny (Blues); A Cuthbert (Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Blues), L Williams (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James (Bath), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), B Davies (Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Blues, capt), T Faletau (Dragons). Replacements: A Shingler (Blues) for B Davies, 2; S Andrews (Blues) for Jarvis, 2; S Williams (Scarlets) for Roberts, 19; J Tipuric (Ospreys) for Jones, 50; G Jenkins (Toulon) for James, 55;T Knoyle (Scarlets) for Phillips, 55; J Hook (Perpignan) for Priestland, 68..
New Zealand: I Dagg (Crusaders); C Jane (Hurricanes), C Smith (Hurricanes), M Nonu (Highlanders), J Savea (Hurricanes); A Cruden (Chiefs), A Smith (Highlanders); T Woodcock (Highlanders), A Hore (Highlanders), O Franks (Crusaders), L Romano (Crusaders), S Whitelock (Crusaders), L Messam (Chiefs), R McCaw (Crusaders, capt), K Read (Crusaders). Replacements: P Weepu (Blues) for A Smith, 50; W Crockett (Crusaders) for Woodcock, 50; D Coles (Hurricanes) for Hore, 55; B Retallick (Chiefs) for Romano, 56; C Faumuina (Cheifs) for Franks, 61; V Vito (Hurricanes) for Messam, 70; B Smith (Highlanders) for Savea, 76.
Referee: G Joubert (South Africa).
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