Blacks bash weary Wales

Dan Carter scored 27 points as a powerful second-half showing earned the All Blacks a 42-9 win over Wales.

Wales always talk a good game, and are known to make good on their promises in the early exchanges. Unfortunately, as seen in the defeat to the Springboks a fortnight ago, they lack the composure to put away the top teams and struggle to maintain the necessary intensity over the 80 minutes.

The All Blacks’ most consistent performance of the night was a fiery rendition of Kapa o Pango, the alternative war dance brought out for this final Test at Carisbrook. During the match, however, their scrum wobbled, their lineout was schooled and their inability to protect the ball robbed them of momentum.

The Welsh defence had the measure of a limited All Blacks attack, and managed to slow the hosts down early on. But while the All Blacks were largely disappointing, they took their opportunities, and two Welsh lapses were punished to the tune of 12 points in the first half.

After battling to breach the advantage line, the All Blacks finally won a penalty deep inside Welsh territory. Jimmy Cowan acted decisively, tapping quickly and feeding Keven Mealamu for a charge-over try. Stephen Jones had kicked a drop goal and Leigh Halfpenny a 55m penalty, but Mealamu’s try and Carter’s conversion saw the hosts edge into the lead.

Wales played a territorial game with halfbacks Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones booting for the corners and testing the All Blacks’ back-three with numerous garryowens. It was a tactic that worked for the Boks in the 2009 Tri-Nations, and the New Zealanders still appear susceptible.

While the visitors produced several promising movements inside the All Blacks’ half, their decision-making let them down. Too often a knock-on would grant the hosts reprieve. Before the match, coach Warren Gatland said Wales believed they could win, but their finishing ability suggested otherwise.

They had the All Blacks under pressure deep in their own half, but failure to protect possession saw the ball shoot out on the New Zealand side of the ruck. Blindside wing Tom Prydie had joined the openside, leaving his wing unmarked, and Cory Jane punished the error by racing 50m to score.

Jones kept Wales in touch with another penalty, but missed a difficult attempt right before half-time. It proved to be very costly for the Welsh.

Throughout the game, the All Blacks tried to up the tempo through their direct and penetrative running and sharp offloading. As the Welsh defence began to tire in the second stanza, the hosts enjoyed more linebreaks, and replacement prop Tony Woodcock also brought some stability to the scrum. Importantly, Woodcock won a penalty for his team which Carter duly converted to stretch the hosts’ lead to 18-9.

The game opened up with the All Blacks launching a counter-attack from their own 22 through Carter. Joe Rokocoko took the initial pass but several backline players were involved a wide sweeping move that took the All Blacks into the Welsh 22, before Carter stepped his way through some poor defence to score.

The All Blacks continued to mix the bad with the good, gaining ground through their industrious forward surges but then conceding possession through poor ball protection. Carter finished a fantastic solo effort in the 67th minute while Richard Kahui coasted through some equally shocking defence, but a more clinical performance would have seen the hosts putting 60 past the weary Welsh.

By Jon Cardinelli