Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Wales will get smashed


Goodbye Wales. You had your chance. Goodbye Julian Savea - you also had your chance.

The touring side will get smashed in the next two tests after failing to kick on and make history at Eden Park.

Coach Warren Gatland's claim that Wales were "brilliant for 60 minutes" is disingenuous because a huge number of test matches are resolved in the last quarter - that's what the game is all about. Claiming 60 minutes of brilliance - an overstatement in itself - is as relevant as losing a game and declaring victory in the scrums. Who cares? The scoreboard said 39-21. Try spinning that, Gatty.

When it came to the crunch, too few Welsh players had enough self belief or petrol in the tank. Gatland didn't believe in his bench, and probably with good reason. There were no game turners available to counter the All Black reserves' telling although hardly spectacular impact.

Wales won't get many better chances in this country. It's 63 years and counting overall. With the old midfield firm having gone and Sonny Bill Williams unavailable, the All Blacks' backline had an off-day.

Yet they were not made to pay for individual and collective frailties.

Not one of the starting All Black backs truly excelled, which is a rare business.

Centres Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa didn't click - Crotty is a stop gap who won't last until the next World Cup.

Chris Rattue's Player Ratings

Julian Savea deserved to be dropped before this match, and he played true to his lethargic 2016 form. Wales' best runners got outside him, even though the touchline was within touching distance. Quite incredibly, Savea's test career could be in trouble.

Playing two power wings didn't work. The yin and yang approach has served New Zealand well - Ben Smith or Nehe Milner-Skudder give this option if paired with Naholo. Down the track Rieko Ioane is an exciting prospect with size and skills.

Naholo had strong moments but made more errors in one test than Cory Jane made in 10. Things also went wrong around Smith. Aaron Cruden lacked command, and Aaron Smith only found his running spark when Wales started to tire.

The All Black forwards are warming to their task. Once the backs click, Wales will get blown away. At least one 40-plus massacre awaits. Gatland's men were in the hunt at Eden Park, they really were. But by the end, they were as bad as many people thought they would be and one of their best, the outstanding wing George North, is in doubt for Wellington with a hamstring injury.

The All Blacks have quality options and one which Hansen must surely take.

The coach gets justified plaudits for giving his players a chance, but not too many. Players respond, because they know where they stand without the mind games associated with some previous bosses. Hansen builds trust by earning it.

The player perhaps most hard done by is Beauden Barrett, who is type cast as a super sub. He would be a test superstar for almost every other country, and deserves an extended chance to show what he can do.

Hansen can't deny him any longer, after Savea's lazy effort. I used to be in the "Ben Smith Can't Be Moved From Fullback" brigade, but not after Saturday night. Move Smith to the wing, and Barrett to fullback. Wales won't cope with that.

If Wayne Barnes wants to be regarded as an arrogant so-and-so, he had a superb test match. The forward pass decision against Aaron Cruden was a tricky call, and one that referee Barnes should not have made. Having sent it to TMO George Ayoub, let Ayoub decide. Simple.

Ayoub was in front of a high definition TV. Barnes was staring upwards at a big screen at distance. Ayoub made a perfectly justified call in giving the green light to TJ Perenara's try. He was let down, like the rest of us. Otherwise, Barnes had a pretty decent match dealing with rugby's rumpty rules.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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