All Blacks snuff out Welsh resistance in Cardiff
Wales’ long wait for a victory over New Zealand continues
New Zealand’s wing Waisake Naholo scores a try against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Getty Images
Wales 18 New Zealand 33
Wales suffered a 30th successive defeat against New Zealand as the world champion All Blacks ended their European tour in winning fashion. But Wales will view it as an opportunity missed to end 64 years of hurt in the fixture after not capitalising on several scoring chances.
New Zealand won 33-18 through wings Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane both claiming try doubles, while substitute centre Anton Lienert-Brown also touched down and outhalf Beauden Barrett kicked four conversions.
Wales replied with tries from Scott Williams, who marked his 50th cap in style, and scrumhalf Gareth Davies. Leigh Halfpenny kicked eight points, yet a capacity 74,500 Principality Stadium crowd could not inspire the triumph they yearn for more than any other.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland failed to mastermind another success over his opposite number Steve Hansen almost five months after managing it with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand. And while the All Blacks never remotely hit top gear, they were ruthless in attack at key moments, taking the try-count 5-2.
Wales showed three changes - all behind the scrum - following the defeat to Australia earlier this month, while lock Sam Whitelock captained New Zealand after Kieran Read was sidelined by a back problem.
The hosts made a positive start, monopolising possession and almost scoring after five minutes when Sonny Bill Williams’ poor pass put his team in reverse gear - but a Halfpenny penalty then opened their account following scrum-half Rhys Webb’s departure.
Webb did not look good as he went off, clearly dazed following a collision, and it seemed to unsettle Wales before New Zealand scored as Ioane blasted through in midfield, found a supporting Aaron Smith before Naholo finished brilliantly one-handed under pressure from opposite number Steff Evans. Barrett kicked the touchline conversion and New Zealand led 7-3 after providing Wales with a graphic reminder of their brilliance with ball in hand.
Wales then suffered another setback when lock Jake Ball was carried off to be replaced by Cory Hill, before New Zealand lost centre Ryan Crotty - Lienert-Brown went on for him - as a punishing opening quarter reached its conclusion.
Wales, though, kept the All Blacks busy in defence, and flanker Josh Navidi’s charge set up a promising attacking position, only for it to be wasted when wing Hallam Amos knocked on with New Zealand stretched for numbers.
Halfpenny made amends for a penalty miss by finding his range from 40 metres to cut the gap following some blatant midfield blocking on Evans, and Wales were back in the ascendancy, asking plenty of questions through their attacking intent.
But just when Wales looked like they might make their dominance count, New Zealand ran two kickable penalties and Smith fired a long pass to Naholo, who squeezed over wide out.
It was a big blow for Wales, yet they did not show it and responded majestically as Amos broke clear, found Dan Biggar alongside him, and Williams claimed a scintillating touchdown that meant New Zealand’s advantage was just 12-11 at the break.
Wales had 68 per cent possession in the first period, while New Zealand made almost 100 tackles, yet the All Blacks’ ruthless finishing proved the difference in an absorbing encounter. New Zealand at times resembled a boxer on the ropes, but a combination of their resilience and Wales’ profligacy in attack frustrated the home side, and that emotion was underlined when Ioane ran strongly and Lienert-Brown touched down for a third All Blacks try.
Ioane then turned scorer five minutes later, intercepting a Biggar pass to sprint over from 45 metres, with Barrett’s conversion effectively sealing Wales’ fate, despite Whitelock being sin-binned by referee Wayne Barnes, before Ioane’s second score took his team past 30 points.