Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Battle of subs proves decisive

Wales players appeal to referee Wayne Barnes after New Zealand All Blacks 1st-five Aaron Cruden throws the pass that was deemed forward to TJ Perenara. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Wales players appeal to referee Wayne Barnes after New Zealand All Blacks 1st-five Aaron Cruden throws the pass that was deemed forward to TJ Perenara. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

When Wales led 21-18 after an hour, the texts started rolling in from overseas questioning the All Blacks' credentials.

Yes, the performance was a bit rusty, a few balls were put down and players slipped off tackles ... but then the bench took hold.

The big difference was that those All Blacks who came on added something to the game, particularly Ardie Savea; the Welsh substitutes didn't.

Savea's performance could be summed up by his vigour.

I'm not saying he was better than Sam Cane, who did what he had to, but Savea hit tackles hard and spun out of them, which was good see as the Welsh were getting tired. That's exactly why he's there.

The bench were heavily involved right down to the Nathan Harris try, when the whole substitute front row featured.

Wales threw everything at the match and the ball was given a fair bit of air.

They tried to play rugby rather than shut up shop and kick for territory along typical Northern Hemisphere lines.

It worked at times but I think their lungs started to burn. After an hour, their energy stopped and they started to blow.

I'm not sure they will get any better.

The scrummaging was closer and cleaner than I anticipated. The packs stayed up and got on with their work. Little time was wasted. I would say a big factor where the Welsh lost was their lineout in the second half. Jerome Kaino was getting a hand in there.

When you get a lineout, especially if you've got good distance from a penalty, you must win your own ball. That's a basic.

Kieran Read led by example in his first test as first-choice captain. He didn't alter his game much and played hard for 80 minutes.

One downside was that Waisake Naholo and Julian Savea lacked defensively.

George North pushed Savea off at one stage and that probably reflects his game being hit-and-miss this year. He needs a wake-up call like that and will want a good showing in Wellington.

The decision to pull Savea off early might shake his cage.

Naholo's two tries were good but his hands let him down. But, like a lot of wings, you take them for the good they bring, like Jonah. Both are capable of finishing on their day, as three tries prove.

The halfback duel also intrigued. Rhys Webb was excellent and Aaron Smith was OK, but faced plenty of pressure around the breakdown. The Welsh were aggressive there.
The 39-21 margin makes it a sound start to the season.

- NZ Herald

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