Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks seal series win over Wales

Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks (C) celebrates his try during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales. Photo / Getty Images.
Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks (C) celebrates his try during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Wales. Photo / Getty Images.

It took the All Blacks 60 minutes to break Wales in Auckland and just 50 in Wellington. That has to be considered progress.

The two late tries Wales scored tonight will have given them some hope heading to Dunedin because, for a 30-minute period in the second half, it was a little worrying as to what debris Wales would be able to piece together and stick out for the last test.

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What will have alarmed them is that were hanging in just fine until 10 minutes after halftime and then they were hit by a black tidal wave that swept them away. The All Blacks, who had been a bit loose and frantic, clicked. In the space of three minutes came two tries and a side that had been a patchy and jittery, were suddenly flowing.

The Welsh defence, quite spick and span for the first half, was in chaos. They couldn't understand why there were All Blacks pouring through. Space, which had been at a premium, was opening up all around them and they were chasing shadows - not even that at times.

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It was if they were a group of marathon runners who collectively hit the wall and just couldn't keep going. The All Blacks gifted them a couple of late tries, which will have irked the coaching staff, but on the plus side, the last 30 minutes were a welcome chance to build the patterns and confidence.

So too was it an opportunity to throw the bench into the fray and give all 23 men a decent run. Such things don't always seem to matter at the time, but having 23 men blooded and up to speed has immense value deeper into the season.

The one big blight on the evening was that Aaron Cruden was stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious injury and he was sent to have precautionary X-rays on his neck.

Malakai Fekitoa was also lost to injury and the fact the All Blacks were forced into a midfield reshuffle for most of the game left them scrambling a little on defence in the first half.

In fact, the first half performance in general, won't have overly pleased the All Blacks. They wanted to play the game at a clip, keep Wales moving so that fatigue would set in as early as possible.

Ben Smith dives over the tryline. Photo / Getty

But the home side didn't have the control or cohesion they needed to string their game together. There were too many mistakes, too many inaccurate moments that gave the impression they were still finding their way with another.

That natural flow that the team had last year wasn't there - understandable given the newness of the set up and the loss of experience, but a touch frustrating all the same for the coaching team that they didn't get the lift they would have expected from the previous week.

The coaches don't expect the team to be the finished product in June, but they do expect for there to be obvious signs of progress.

Playing at breakneck pace without control and accuracy makes the All Blacks vulnerable to opportunist attacks. Wales were reasonably alert and careful to pounce when they could in what was an otherwise clever, controlled and balanced performance from them until they fell apart.

They played well behind the gainline and were happy to keep possession in lieu of genuinely looking for space. It was presumably designed to frustrate the All Blacks, limit the opportunities for counter-attack and ultimately give Wales a fighting chance of having something left in the tank by the final quarter.

New Zealand 36 (I. Dagg, B. Smith, B. Barrett, W. Naholo, A. Savea tries; A. Cruden con, pen; B. Barrett 2 cons) Wales 22 (A. Wyn Jones, L. Williams, J. Davies tries; D.Biggar 2 cons, pen). Halftime: 10-10.

- NZ Herald

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