All Blacks storm home against Wales

By Gregor Paul

Wales 9 All Blacks 29

Another slow start, another fast finish and another good result. The Grand Slam dream is very much alive, with the Welsh dragon eventually slayed and now only a limping, insipid England to go.

This was a victory the All Blacks had to grind out, it was chisels out and chip away at the coalface until after 55 minutes, big chunks of rock started to come away.

That was the point when the Welsh resistance started to crack. The All Black forwards were punching bigger holes by then and able to get the ball in contact more. That meant they were making more inches going forward, and the inches turned into yards and yards meant space.

Jerome Kaino thought he had got over and plonked the ball down but the video referee didn't seem to think so. Denied at that point, the All Blacks made their breakthrough on 60 minutes when some excellent pick and drive opened the Welsh and when the ball was spun right Keven Mealamu was aware enough to delay his pass to Ma'a Nonu.

The All Blacks needed that try. It put them 16-9 ahead and meant Wales would have to chase the game. Catch up rugby is high risk rugby and that was what the All Black were keen to see Wales try.

For the first 40 minutes the Welsh were composed and effective. They played with some width and enterprise and their forwards held their own everywhere other than the scrum.

There were periods where the All Blacks were clearly being put off their game by the intensity and accuracy of the Welsh. Dan Carter, a genius all season was troubled at times.

He had a few moments of indecision where he was caught in possession and his kicking out of hand was not the usual glorious sight to behold.

There was some mix-ups at the base of the scrum, too, were there was uncertainty about who was doing what. Wales couldn't capitalise in the way they would have liked.

They managed three penalties but there is always the feeling that if you don't score tries against the All Blacks you are not going to beat them. That tuned out the case.

This All Black side have become rather good at soaking up pressure for long periods, retaining their belief and then thundering back into the game in the second half.

The depth of their spirit is impressive as is the way they continue to not panic and trust in their ability to get things right.

After Nonu scored, Wales kind of knew they were gone. They were still giving it everything but their scrum was under too much pressure and they were infringing too much at the breakdown. The momentum they built in the first half deserted them in the second and it was pretty much New Zealand all the way.

Carter kicked two more penalties after Nonu's try to make it totally safe and then just for good measure, Kaino was worked over in the last play of the game to score the try he was denied earlier.

It made the scoreline a little flattering as Wales had given plenty and didn't feel 20 points behind. That will have done little to please them and they were coming into this game from a low base.

Wales were a little grumpy at their effort against South Africa and had a fair bit of time to sit around brooding, plotting ways to make amends against the All Blacks.

A big feature of their strategy was to not be intimidated, to give as good as they got. That attitude came through before the game even kicked-off. The All Blacks finished the haka and did their usual lingering stand there and stare thing. But the Welsh didn't flinch. They kept their arms around each other, they stood their ground and just stared back.

And then it all got kind of awkward because we had to get on with the game but neither side was going to call it off. It went on and on and after 30 seconds the crowd were so into it that there was no way out for either team.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan had to intervene and start physically shoving the All Blacks back, urging them that it would be okay to back down, that they wouldn't lose face if it they were made to do it by the referee.

All that set a fearsome mood for the opening exchanges and the Welsh were into their work with a bit more feeling than they otherwise might have been.

New Zealand 29 (Ma'a Nonu, Jerome Kaino tries; Dan Carter 5 pen 2 con) Wales 9 (Stephen Jones 3 pen). Halftime: 6-9.

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