All Blacks secure fourth Grand Slam

By Dylan Cleaver

All Blacks 37
Wales 25

The All Blacks celebrate their win over Wales. Photo / Getty Images
The All Blacks celebrate their win over Wales. Photo / Getty Images

For the second time in five years, a Gear made Millennium Stadium their home.

In 2005 it was older brother Rico making merry here as he crossed for a hat-trick in a convincing victory. Today it was Hosea with the decisive hand in a match won 37-25, but which was not put away until the final 10 minutes.

Indeed, with Daniel Braid, on for the injured Kieran Read, sent to the sin bin in the 51st minute and Stephen Jones narrowing New Zealand's lead to 13-12 with the resultant penalty, a 57 year curse looked on the cusp of being reversed.

But New Zealand used their numerical disadvantage to great effect, with Gear scoring his second try in the corner after a sweeping counterattack.

It could have been a completely different story. In the first minute of the match Gear simultaneously conceded three points and rolled his ankle while attempting to charge down Stephen Jones.

It took a long time for him to run out the problem while Ma'a Nonu stalked the sidelines. When Isaia Toeava looked like he had corked a thigh soon after, Nonu may have even encroached where he should not have been.

Toeava's stinger happened as he set up Gear's first try. Running off a Sonny Bill Williams' offload, the Aucklander used his strength and pace to brush off two defenders before flicking out a Williams-like offload of his own to Gear who hobbled in at the corner.

When Mils Muliana scored a superb breakout try in the 22nd minute, you feared a sporting non-event.

Wales' policy of kicking the ball down the throats of the All Black three and then having to deal with wave after wave of counter-attack was clearly flawed.

In a flash though the complexion of the game changed. Wales kept the ball in hand, referee Alan Lewis, in conjunction with touch judge Jonathan Kaplan, started finding fault with most things the All Blacks were doing and Dan Carter kept missing his kicks.

He nailed one early to pass Jonny Wilkinson's world record of 1178, but it was not one of his happier nights at the office. The Millennium Stadium might be a magnificent arena shoe-horned into an inconceivably small patch of real estate, but it's surface is a disgrace.

It is probably a stretch to say the shifting sands was the reason for Carter's kicking woes, but it could not have helped.

Things started going pear-shaped for the All Blacks. Iron man Kieran Read, one of the standout players of the tour, left the field under the duress of a knee injury, to be replaced by Braid, with Richie McCaw shifting to the back of the scrum.

Given how little he has played on this tour, it was impossible not to see the irony when Braid was sin binned.

Gear's second try, instigated by Conrad Smith on one side of the field before play switched too quickly for Wales to cope, would have eased Braid's anxiety, as would a Carter penalty from in front of the sticks soon after.

Still, Jones kept chipping away at the lead and the game was still in the balance until Brad Thorn, in his 50th test, and Anthony Boric combined to put Toeava in with a little more than five minutes to play. Carter's conversion made it 30-18 and there was still time for John Afoa to canter - if props can ever be accused of cantering - 30m for a try and for Lee Byrne to add a consolation score for Wales.

New Zealand 37 (H. Gear (2), M. Muliaina, I. Toeava, J. Afoa tries; D. Carter 4 cons, 3 pens)

Wales 25 (L. Byrne try; S. Jones 6 pens, con)\

All Blacks Grand Slam
All Blacks 37 - Wales 25
All Blacks 38 - Ireland 18
All Blacks 49 - Scotland 3
All Blacks 26 - England 16

- NZ Herald

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