All Blacks survive Welsh scare

By Mark Geenty

Wales 12 All Blacks 19

All Blacks wing Zac Guildford on attack during this morning's test against Wales in Cardiff. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks wing Zac Guildford on attack during this morning's test against Wales in Cardiff. Photo / Getty Images

CARDIFF - The All Blacks withstood a frenzied Welsh fightback to hold on for a 19-12 victory and extend their test rugby winning streak to 21 against the hosts at Millennium Stadium here today.

The All Blacks looked to have the test in safe keeping at 19-6 up with 15 minutes left, but Wales refused to lie down and launched a wave of late attacks, roared on by a pumped up full house of 74,330.

With two minutes left, lock Alan Wyn Jones intercepted a Jimmy Cowan pass and raced 50m, and it took a desperate knockdown from impressive debutant Zac Guildford to snuff the break out.

First five-eighth Dan Carter also produced a big trysaving tackle on Welsh reserve Martin Roberts after a brilliant Shane Williams burst. Replays showed it to be high and Carter was booed off by the home fans after being named man of the match.

A lineout steal from All Blacks reserve Adam Thomson on their own line was enough to close the test, with Wales still searching for their first win since 1953 against the All Blacks.

It also maintained the All Blacks perfect record on northern hemisphere tours which stretches back to 2002.

Hooker Andrew Hore scored the only try of the match, while three other potential tries were denied by the television match official. Carter kicked five from five to make it a perfect 13 from 13 on the tour so far.

Wales' pivot Stephen Jones kept his side in the game with four penalties from five attempts, but the hosts just couldn't crack the solid All Blacks defence.

The All Blacks shaded the Welsh up front, particularly at scrum time, but it was a much tougher contest than the five previous here, which the tourists had won by an average 37-13 scoreline.

All week the refrain in Cardiff was to end "56 years of hurt" against the All Blacks, and it was inevitable the tourists would be greeted by a Welsh barrage in an electric atmosphere under the closed roof.

Captain Richie McCaw was smashed back in a three-man tackle in the opening movement and the big crowd lifted the noise level.

The hosts had the majority of first half possession and won the first half penalty count 9-6.

They tried to attack, and Jones unleashed a barrage of bombs, but they rarely threatened inside the All Blacks' 22m as the tourists defended aggressively and got the edge at the breakdown as fullback Mils Muliaina led a solid back three.

Carter and Jones traded penalties inside the opening quarter then the All Blacks were denied what appeared the opening try by English TMO Graham Hughes.

In a rare foray into Welsh territory, the All Blacks roared onto a clever Carter stab kick and halfback Brendon Leonard looked to have dived over from the maul, but Hughes ruled a knock on.

From the resultant penalty, Carter goaled to give the All Blacks a 6-3 lead at the 22-minute mark.

Jones levelled it up again in the 35th minute, making it the eighth time from 11 tests this year the All Blacks hadn't led at halftime.

Carter put the All Blacks in front four minutes into the second half from a deliberate knock-on, and they began to ramp up the pressure as Wales' intensity gradually faded.

Cowan replaced Leonard at the 50-minute mark and it sparked the All Blacks.

The opening, gamebreaking try came in the 56th minute, when Wyatt Crockett and Guildford handled and Hore picked up to drive over and Carter goaled for 16-6.

They began to dominate with wave after wave of attack and were twice denied by Hughes' rulings, the first when Conrad Smith looked to have scored from a neat Carter wrap-around.

Carter's fourth penalty boosted the lead to 13 but Wales never surrendered, and two more Jones penalties kept the gallant hosts in the contest.

New Zealand 19 (Andrew Hore try; Dan Carter 4 penalties, conversion) def. Wales 12 (Stephen Jones 4 penalties). HT: 6-6.

- NZPA

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