All Blacks triumph over Wales

By Gregor Paul in Cardiff

Julian Savea of the All Blacks fends off Alex Cuthbert of Wales during the international match between Wales and New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.
Julian Savea of the All Blacks fends off Alex Cuthbert of Wales during the international match between Wales and New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.

Wales 10
New Zealand 33

Evolution is the theme of the 2012 All Blacks and, for periods at least, they enhanced their offering in Cardiff this morning - playing as they did a game with more variation and a lethal edge.

They were, when they flowed, fast, sharp, accurate and more polished then they have been on this tour so far. Wales, Grand Slam champions, were splattered all over the Millennium Stadium in the first half. It could have been worse for them, much worse, but the All Blacks lost some sting later in the game, didn't have the venom they needed to make it one of those defeats from which Wales would have taken an age to recover.

A black bus was driven through them in that first 40 minutes and that left them battered, out of the game and hoping that as often happens when things are so clear-cut so early, that the All Blacks would come off the boil.

They got their wish - the All Blacks lost their rhythm after the break and much of their accuracy as well. Wales have to be credited for some of that - they got tighter, started to believe a bit more in themselves and showed some signs of life; some recognition they are a quality side.

They got back into the game via a curious and highly effective 15-man lineout that yielded them a try and from there, they had the look of old.

That Welsh comeback will not sit well with the All Blacks as they had their opponent by the throat after 50 minutes - leading 33-0 and with all the momentum. The Welsh scrum was also being bent and buckled to the extent the All Blacks were looking to push them over from close range in the final quarter. But the Welsh didn't crack and it will be the first 50 minutes of the game that will provide the inspiration for next week.

The All Black forwards had taken on board the need to tidy up their delivery, to spend more time providing possession and less time worrying about what to do with it.

Aaron Smith, like a precious baby Kiwi, was safe in his nest, able to get his hands on the ball and play his game without interference. Tidy, careful, exact - that about sums up the way the forwards operated at the tackled ball. Wales were frenetic in that area, swarming and awkward, but they couldn't slow things down the way they wanted and that stuffed them.

Quick ball was the death knell for Wales. That was the thing they knew they couldn't let the All Blacks have because once the game was pushed into the wider reaches; once it became a game of aerobic capacity, space exploitation and basic skills - game over.

The All Blacks hadn't been overly chuffed with their open play against either Scotland or Italy: they felt they had more to offer, that they could be more direct. They got the improvements they were after - their counter-attack game returning with some vengeance. Liam Messam's try mid-way through the first half was magical - superb rugby built on the twin pillars of awareness and accuracy. This was rugby as it was meant to be played - pass and run, pass and run until Wales had no-one left to stop Messam in the right-hand corner after the move had started in the diagonally opposite one.

Wales 10 (S. Williams, A. Cuthbert tries)
New Zealand 33 (L. Messam, T. Woodcock, L. Romano tries; A. Cruden 3 cons, 4 pens)

- Herald on Sunday

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