The All Blacks scored three late tries to beat Wales 34-16 in Cardiff on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
For 69 minutes of this match, it looked as if Wales could go on to beat New Zealand for the first time in 61 years and 26 Tests. But the All Blacks, as they so often do, raised their game in the final 10 minutes to silence the capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium and give Richie McCaw a win in his record 100th Test as captain.
The look on Warren Gatland's face said it all. Since he became coach, Wales have lost 26 out of 27 matches against the big three southern hemisphere sides. Once again, they talked a big game during the week, but couldn't back it up on the field.
Beauden Barrett excelled for the All Blacks, and it was an absolute joke that former England hooker and BBC commentator Brian Moore gave the official Man of the Match award to Wales' Jamie Roberts. Barrett missed an easy penalty attempt early on, but went on to kick two penalties and a conversion, score two tries and have a hand in two others.
The first half was closely contested with Leigh Halfpenny and Barrett each kicking a penalty. The 3-3 scoreline at the break was a fair reflection of the game as both sides failed to take the try-scoring opportunities that came their way. Halfpenny threw a forward pass to Alex Cuthbert following a strong run by Sam Warburton, while the All Blacks came within inches of the tryline at the end of the half before Sonny Bill Williams knocked on.
Wales defended well throughout the first half, but would have been worried about their scrum, with Paul James receiving a warning after being penalised three times in 30 minutes.
The All Blacks struck a blow early in the second half when Barrett picked up the loose ball and broke three tackles to take play into the Welsh 22. While the hosts managed to force a turnover, New Zealand somehow got the ball back at the next ruck and gave it to the backs. Barrett threw a long pass to Conrad Smith and he quickly sent it on to Julian Savea, who ran over Dan Biggar and scored in the left-hand corner, with Barrett adding the extras.
But Wales hit back when, having kicked a penalty to the corner and won the lineout, Toby Faletau stepped inside past Sam Whitelock and put Rhys Webb over for a try. Halfpenny kicked the conversion and then added a penalty to put the hosts ahead 13-10.
New Zealand then scored their second try on the 64-minute mark when, after Richie McCaw had been tackled just short of the line, Barrett's excellent cross-kick found Smith, who passed to Jerome Kaino.
Barrett missed the conversion and Halfpenny's third penalty gave the hosts a 16-15 lead.
But it didn't last long, as Halfpenny allowed Barrett's chip kick down the blind side to bounce and the All Blacks flyhalf regathered the ball to score a converted try.
Kieran Read then charged down Mike Phillips' kick from a ruck to score, before a cross-kick from Colin Slade was tapped-back inside by Ben Smith to Barrett, standing on the right wing, who scored his second try.
Wales – Try: Rhys Webb. Conversion: Leigh Halfpenny. Penalties: Halfpenny (3).
All Blacks – Tries: Julian Savea, Jerome Kaino, Beauden Barrett (2), Kieran Read. Conversions: Barrett, Colin Slade (2). Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2).
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Subs: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images