The All Blacks are patient. They kick a lot. And when the unforced error is made, that’s when they’re better than anyone else. Tom Fordyce, BBC Sports Writer
Welsh fade in the last quarter
By Roger Childs
Rugby is an eighty minute game and you need to give it your best shot through to the final whistle. This time last year in Dublin, the Irish learnt this lesson the hard way when they let the All Blacks loose with the ball in the 79th minute. The visitors went on to score one of the great test tries of all time and snatch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat. On Saturday in Cardiff, the Welsh were still in the match after 68 minutes as they led 16-15, but allowed the All Blacks to run in three tries in the last ten minutes and cruise to a decisive 34-16 victory.
A tight first half
It was 3-3 at half time and this was a fair reflection of the play. Neither side looked like scoring a try, until the last few minutes when the All Blacks went close. Both teams tackled ferociously and the only significant breaks were a run by Charles Piutau down the right wing and a big break down the middle by Welsh captain Sam Warburton after referee Barnes missed a huge knock on by the home team’s fullback.
The Welsh were very much in the game at half time, but had wasted a lot of possession by kicking it away to All Black back three. However they had defended very well and their disruption of the All Black passing often led to handling errors. They also competed vigorously in the rucks and didn’t give the dangerous All Black backs much room to move. But one area where they were struggling, was in the scrums where they were penalised three times for collapsing.
Things open up in the second half
All six tries were scored in the space of 38 minutes. Early in the half, Barrett had made a brilliant break down the middle and from a later ruck the All Blacks spread the ball wide to Savea. The big winger bumped off a would-be tackler and with Barrett kicking a difficult conversion it was 10-3.
However a few minutes later Wales took their only try opportunity of the match and impressive half back Rhys Webb scored by the posts after a brilliant offload by Toby Faletau.
McCaw then went close to scoring after a great break by Coles down the right. However, Halfpenny kicked two penalties to Barrett’s one, to give Wales a 16-15 lead which really didn’t reflect the run of play. It was time for the All Blacks to turn the heat on.
With not a lot of room for the passing game, the All Black resorted to accurate cross kicks. One by Barrett, was caught by Conrad Smith who quickly in-passed to the unstoppable Jerome Kaino.
A seven minute blitz
Barrett had a mixed first half and missed two shots at goal, whereas Welsh fullback, Halfpenny, slotted four out of four. Hanson decided to get Colin Slade on the park just in case it came down to a crucial kick at the end. Barrett moved back to full back and would feature in two of the last three tries.
~ 73 minutes: Kieran Read charges down the Welsh half back’s attempted clearing kick and re-gathers the ball to score near the corner. Slade justifies the coaches’ confidence to slot over a difficult conversion.
~ 77 minutes: Slade kicks cross field, Ben Smith jumps high and knocks the ball back to Barrett who scores again.
Game over: 36-16 with the All Blacks scoring five tries to one.
A fitting climax for the skipper
I’m just happy to take the win. Richie McCaw
It was Richie McCaw’s record 100th game as All Black captain, so it was fitting result for him and for the team in their last test for 2014. Although it was tight for three quarters of the game, the Welsh never ever dominated. In the end the superior fitness and tactical nous of the All Blacks told and they were able to win comfortably.
None of the All Blacks played poorly and the defence was outstanding across the park. Crockett and Conrad Smith were two tacklers to stand out. Aaron Smith had another very good game at half back with his speedy passing and darting runs. Savea was always dangerous and Retallick was impressive in the tight and loose. Meanwhile, skipper McCaw toiled all day and was unlucky not to be rewarded with a try.
Although there were some close games, the All Blacks finished the season with
- 12 wins
- 1 draw
- 1 loss after a last minute penalty to South Africa.
They easily retain their top ranking in the world.