The All Blacks claimed a 40-17 bronze final victory against Wales in Tokyo on Friday to give coach Steve Hansen a winning end to his tenure. DYLAN JACK reports.
While all the attention in the build up to the game was focused on it being Hansen and captain Kieran Read’s final games with the All Blacks, Hansen spoke of bringing pride back to the jersey after their disappointing performance in the semi-finals. That was exactly what the All Blacks did, as they took advantage of admittedly poor tactical play from Wales and put on a show of ruthless and clinical rugby.
Standout performances from Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith, who scored a brace, will beg the question over Hansen’s use of his veterans as both were utilised sparingly throughout the tournament. That question could be rather meaningless as the All Blacks forwards were dominated in the semi-final and it did not matter who was in their backline.
For Wales, it was a rather frustrating way to end Warren Gatland’s tenure, but there were still a few positives as fullback Hallam Amos, wing Josh Adams and tighthead prop Dillon Lewis put in good performances. Adams scored his seventh try of the tournament in the second half and is likely to finish as the top try scorer.
All three are young enough to play for Wales at the next World Cup and it is an indication that there will be something for incoming head coach Wayne Pivac to build on.
The game itself took the form of a Barbarians match. While a third-place finish was on the line, in reality both teams were playing for pride more than anything else and spread the ball whenever possible. Wales made 180 runs and passes, but only 61 carries over the gainline.
The All Blacks raced into a 14-0 lead thanks to tries from Joe Moody and Beauden Barrett. Moody’s try was particularly impressive as it came directly from a turnover with several forwards running excellent lines and offloading to present the loosehead prop with a 25m run to the tryline. While Wales hit back with some pressure of their own, which saw Amos score before Rhys Patchell added a conversion and penalty, wing Ben Smith dotted down for a brace to take the All Blacks into a 28-10 lead at the break.
Crotty’s second-half try from a typical Sonny Bill Williams offload pretty much sealed the game in New Zealand’s favour. There was still time for Adams to break Shane Williams’ record of six tournament tries for Wales and for Richie Mo’unga to scamper over from a scrum to take his tally for the game to 15 points.
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All Blacks – Tries: Joe Moody, Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith (2), Ryan Crotty, Richie Mo’unga. Conversion: Mo’unga (5).
Wales – Tries: Hallam Amos, Josh Adams. Conversion: Rhys Patchell, Dan Biggar. Penalty: Patchell.
All Blacks – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Wales – 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Hadleigh Parkes.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images