Beauden Barrett contributed 26 points as the All Blacks clinched a resounding 46-6 win over Wales in Dunedin on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Producing their most emphatic performance of the series, the All Blacks ran the weary Welsh ragged on their way to an emphatic result that sealed a 3-0 series win and underlined New Zealand's world-champion status once again.
Although Wales have battled gallantly this series, the All Blacks have ultimately proven to be far superior, and on Saturday there was simply never any doubt about the result, which saw the Kiwis running in six tries, while conceding none.
The visitors will particularly lament a poor kicking performance that allowed the All Blacks to have a field day from broken play, and their superb interplay, passing and running lines were ultimately too much for Wales to handle.
With a strong foundation laid up front by the forwards, halfbacks Aaron Smith and Barrett ran proceedings with aplomb, while George Moala, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg all made meaningful impressions.
Despite the end result, Wales did make a positive start to proceedings – as they have done all series – and opened up a 6-3 lead before the quarter-hour mark, with Dan Biggar knocking over a couple of simple penalties.
Yet there was also a familiar feeling to the script as the All Blacks slowly began to assert their ascendancy with ball in hand, which particularly saw the likes of Ben Smith and Dagg proving to be lethal on the counter-attack.
Indeed, there was an air of inevitability about it when Smith eventually went over in the corner to score the opening try in the 23rd minute as the All Blacks’ waves of attack finally reaped reward.
To the visitors' own detriment, Wales continued to offer plenty of counter-attacking opportunities to the All Blacks’ lethal runners, with a host of kicks failing to find touch.
It played right into the hosts’ hands as another multiphase movement that originated from a poor Welsh clearance enabled Moala to go over for New Zealand’s second try and open up an 18-6 lead at the break.
At half-time, SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats told a powerful story. The All Blacks had made 247m to Wales’ 97, beaten 13 defenders to five and completed six clean breaks to two, while also enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
Wales also missed 14 tackles as their defence failed to cope with the All Blacks’ dynamic attacking interplay, and when Barrett barged over to score soon after the restart, it was another real warning sign that this contest could turn into a one-sided blowout.
Even when All Blacks flank Sam Cane spent 10 minutes in the sin bin, the hosts showed no signs of slowing down, and before the hour mark Barrett went over for a superb solo try as the lead stretched out to 26 points.
Dane Coles and Dagg (with the final play of the game) went over for two more tries before full-time as New Zealand finished off the series with a resounding result.
All Blacks – Tries: Ben Smith, George Moala, Beauden Barrett (2), Dane Coles, Israel Dagg. Conversions: Barrett (5). Penalties: Barrett (2).
Wales – Penalties: Dan Biggar (2).
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Wales – 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Scott Williams.
Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images