All Blacks finish stronger to sink Wales

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Lynn McConnell     11 Jun 2016     Getty Images

The visitors knew their best chance of success on their tour was in Auckland and for three-quarters of the game they put pressure on an All Blacks team that, in spite of an extra week's preparation was unable to shake their early season rustiness.

The crowd of 46,270 had plenty to keep them anxious as Wales tested the All Blacks defences with first five-eighths Dan Biggar directing play well. It was always expected New Zealand would always face 'in your face pressure' from the Welsh and so it proved.

That didn't account for blistering speed as a way around the defences as Naholo showed more than once. And in crunch stages in the final quarter Wales were unable to secure their own lineout ball.

But in the end it was a triumph for the team's leadership with captain and No.8 Kieran Read crossing in the 67th minute for the clincher. He was helped by timely infusion from the reserves bench with prop Charlie Faumuina, flanker Ardie Savea and lock Patrick Tuipulotu, courtesy of two lineout steals, all injecting power into the side.

Another replacement, halfback TJ Perenara was unlucky to have a try ruled out when a forward pass from first five-eighths Aaron Cruden, who made a superb break was ruled to have been forward, although it appeared a hairline call. Replacement hooker Nathan Harris had better luck scoring after the final hooter, courtesy of good control of the ball short of the goal-line.

Savea had an instant impact, joining play with 20 minutes left and at a lineout just out from Wales line. Wales cleared, but from the resulting lineout New Zealand charged back into the 22m area and Savea burst from a ruck toward the line.
Several pick and goes resulted and Savea took the ball closer to the line. But Wales conceded a penalty and halfback Aaron Smith shadowed referee Wayne Barnes and took the quick tap and fed a flying Waisake Naholo who was unstoppable in scoring his second try of the night to reclaim the lead at 25-21.

New Zealand's reclamation of the lead was a result of their lifting the tempo of the game and resulting in Wales sending on four of their substitutes in one hit.

They talked all week about shaking out rust, but it was still apparent and Wales capitalised to enjoy an 18-15 lead at halftime, the try-scoring honours being shared at two apiece.

Moments after Cruden landed a penalty goal Wales halfback Rhys Webb lobbed a kick into the box where an uncharacteristic failure to secure the high ball All Blacks fullback Ben Smith saw the ball tidied by hooker Ken Owens. He drove on and the ball was moved wide where fullback Liam Williams carried the ball deep into the 22m area.

From the ruck the ball was moved left and No.8 Taulupe Faletau was given room on the left to go across in the corner.

All that did was stir an All Blacks response. First after 14 minutes, wing Waisake Naholo, moments after having dropped a long pass from Ben Smith in open ground, superbly stood his marker Hallam Amos up on the outside, setting off for the goal-line. When stopped the ball was moved to Cruden from the ruck and he put a high ball into the in-goal area where left wing Julian Savea was untroubled to secure the ball and score.

Wales launched another high ball at Ben Smith, as if to test his confidence after his earlier drop. But he soared elegantly to take the ball and hit the ground running to pierce the defence and then link with Cruden and he then found Naholo had switched inside, perfectly placed to break the defence and run away to score.

Thirty minutes into the half the All Blacks kicked a Welsh kick back downfield but fullback Liam Williams was able to break into space when shrugging the tackles of lock Brodie Retallick and hooker Dane Coles' tackle attempts before finding halfback Rhys Webb in support to score and claim the lead by three points after Biggar landed the conversion.

New Zealand's defence was also secure in the face of two prolonged Wales assaults towards the end of each half.

Scorers: New Zealand 39 (Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo 2, Kieran Read, Nathan Harris tries; Aaron Cruden 4 con, 2 pen) Wales 21 (Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb tries; Dan Biggar con, 3 pen). HT: 15-18