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Strong All Blacks defence stymies Welsh efforts

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Lynn McConnell     26 Nov 2017     Getty Images

Wales' losing sequence of 30 Tests to New Zealand is the worst of top tier nations in world rugby.

Wales brought plenty of attacking intent to the game and maintained it even when drifting behind on the scoreboard. 

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However, the All Blacks tackling was outstanding with flanker Sam Cane especially prominent while captain and lock Sam Whitelock led superbly by example in the same facet. And replacement Matt Todd also pulled off a try-saving tackle on Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau.

For all their continuity play, Wales lacked the variation to truly trouble the All Blacks, while the power of the All Blacks scrum at crucial moments was again impressive.

Wings Rieko Ioane, who was outstanding with his power and speed, and Waisake Naholo, who finished superbly, both scored two tries.

Wales flanker Josh Navidi had a powerful game and was strong with ball in hand while hooker Ken Owens was a constant in the continuity play. Wales lost starting halfback Rhys Webb early in the game but his replacement Gareth Davies proved a handful.

Again, as it has so often been in contests with Wales, it was heading into the final quarter that the All Blacks gained their winning momentum. It came after a period of sustained attacking, rare for them up to that point of the game, and it took a strong surge by Ioane to create the chance.
He broke past his marker and when tackled put the ball back where it bounced into replacement centre Anton Lienert-Brown's hands and he was untroubled to run around near the posts for the 56th minute try.

That was followed six minutes later by an intercept try scored by Ioane who latched onto Welsh five-eighths Dan Biggar's pass with ease to take New Zealand out to 26-11. 

Wales got back into the All Blacks' territory on the back of a perfectly-weighted midfield chip kick and with a string of scrums on the five-metre line the pressure was mounted and captain Whitelock was sin-binned in the 68th minute. Wales used that to create the try scoring chance for halfback Davies.

But the All Blacks produced a superb response from a scrum penalty where their reduced scrum gave good ball to replacement halfback TJ Perenara who found replacement five-eighths Lima Sopoaga. He passed to Perenara doubling round and linked with Ioane coming across to the right from his left wing and his speed did the rest.

Struggling through Welsh build-ups of 18 and 15 phases during the first 12 minutes, but when halfback Davies got offside chasing a kick ahead, the All Blacks had their first chance.
From the lineout, the ball was moved with Ioane coming across to the right to break the tackle, then the line, before linking inside with halfback Aaron Smith. He ran ahead, then stepped inside second five-eighths Owen Williams. He then flung a wide ball for Naholo who dived over in the corner to score after 14 minutes.

Wales continued to throw everything into their attack, confining the All Blacks to long periods in their own half and on defence. But their tackling made its mark into injury time when they worked a backline move which saw wing Hallam Amos come into the line to create an opening and which provided the chance for centre Scott Williams, in his 50th Test, to run in a well-worked try.

It came after the All Blacks had scored their second try in the 38th minute, from a string of penalties conceded by the Welsh. Eschewing shots for goals, the All Blacks kicked for a lineout and then opted for tap penalties with two strong surges by second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams carrying play close to the line, before Smith fired the ball across to the wing where Naholo reached out for it and touched down for his second.

Wales had one earlier chance but a poor pass from fullback Scott Halfpenny to Amos was dropped allowed the All Blacks the chance to clear. But for all their possession, 65 percent, and position 67 percent and five minutes in the All Blacks' 22m area Wales went to the break 11-12 down. The All Blacks made the most of their two minutes in Wales' 22 to score two tries.

Scorers: Wales 18 (Scott Williams, Gareth Davies tries; Leigh Halfpenny con, 2 pen) New Zealand 33 (Waisake Naholo 2, Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane 2 tries; Beauden Barrett 3 con). HT: 11-12