Blackout in Cardiff

New Zealand completed a clean sweep of victories on their year-end tour by beating Wales 45-10 at the Millennium Stadium.

The win was built on first phase dominance and superior skills and intensity at the breakdown. Sitiveni Sivivatu shone, scoring a hat trick and always looked dangerous with ball in hand.

The All Blacks dominated possession and territory for most of the Test against a Welsh side who were outmuscled in the tight phases and outthought in the loose.

The Dragons failed to ever get going due largely to an outstanding New Zealand back row, who either turned over the ball in crucial areas or slowed it down, effectively nullifying any attacking opportunities the hosts might have had.

Captain and flyhalf Stephen Jones slide anonymously into the pocket, ruling his dangerous outside backs out of the game. Credit has also got to given to the All Blacks’ superb defence, who weren’t breached once.

When the Welsh scrum buckled first up, the signs were ominous that they were in for a torrid evening. Their lineouts were inconsistent as hooker Rhys Thomas failed to find his jumpers with any sort of regularity and as a result they never really built an attacking platform from this facet of play.

It took just three minutes for the All Blacks to strike through Luke McAlister. After New Zealand had set up a number of phases, Byron Kelleher sniped around the blind side and found McAlister. The Blues man sent a hard running Sivivatu into a gap and great support play saw him get it back from the winger on a inside switch to score under the posts.

The only meaningful foray Wales made into the All Blacks 22 in the first half came straight from the restart, when Ali Williams spilled the ball backwards and Mils Muliaina had to scramble to clear his lines.

New Zealand though were clinical whenever the got into the strike zone and two penalties by the reliable boot of Dan Carter, who missed just two kicks in the match, sent his side into an early 16-0 lead, before Sivivatu crossed for his second.

The move was archetypical New Zealand backline brilliance, after McCaw had successfully scavaged at the breakdown and exposed the scattered defence. The ball went left, where the All Blacks had a four on two advantage and a series of switch passes amongst the backs sent the big wing in for the try just before the half-time siren.

Wales came back strongly after the break, mounting a sustained period of pressure that eventually resulted in first, McCaw then Andrew Hore sin-binned within 10 minutes of each other.

Wales capitalised on their numbers advantage when a driving maul had Martyn Williams emerge from a mound of bodies for their only try of the match.

But woeful defending allowed Sivivatu to score his third within a minute of Williams’ score, as substitute flyhalf Nick Evans eased through a huge gap in the flyhalf channel and dished inside for the wing to round off a sublime display.

A penalty try just before the final whistle compounded a miserable afternoon for Wales, who never looked like threatening a frighteningly good All Black outfit.

By Ryan Vrede

Scorers

Wales

Tries:Martyn Williams
Conversions:James Hook
Penalties:Stephen Jones

New Zealand

Tries:Luke McAlister, Sitiveni Sivivatu (3), Penalty try
Conversions:Dan Carter (2/3) Evans (2)
Penalties:Carter (4/5)

The teams:

Wales: 15 Kevin Morgan, 14 Mark Jones, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones (c), 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Rhys Thomas, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Alix Popham, 20 Michael Phillips, 21 James Hook, 22 Gavin Henson.

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Keith Robinson, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Neemia Tialata.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 James Ryan, 19 Reuben Thorne, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Nick Evans, 22 Ma’a Nonu.