Beauden Barrett marked his 100th Test for New Zealand with intercept tries at either end of the match as the All Blacks beat a depleted Wales 54-16 in Cardiff on Saturday to climb to the top of the World Rugby Rankings.
The All Blacks ran in seven tries to one by Wales, with flyhalf Barrett picking off passes in both the fourth and 79th minutes of a match in which brother Jordie kicked 19 points.
“I’m relieved it’s over – it’s been quite a tense week,” said Barrett, presented with a silver cap post-match by teammate TJ Perenara to mark his 100th Test.
Wales’ 32nd successive loss to New Zealand since their last victory over the All Blacks back in 1953 was made worse when captain Alun Wyn Jones went off injured after just 19 minutes at the Principality Stadium.
Jones, who by making a 149th appearance for his country surpassed New Zealand great Richie McCaw’s previous world record for most caps for a single nation, had to leave the field with a shoulder injury after making a tackle.
New Zealand were in complete control at 28-9 on the hour mark before Wales centre Johnny Williams’ converted try cut their lead to 12 points.
But the recently crowned Rugby Championship winners responded in typically ruthless fashion by scoring four tries late on, with Wales coach Wayne Pivac, himself a New Zealander, lamenting “silly mistakes” and admitting his new-look side’s fitness “fell off a cliff” in the final 20 minutes.
Wales were without 20 players due to a combination of injuries and illness and the fact this fixture was taking place outside the designated Test window, meaning they were without England-based stars such as Louis Rees-Zammit, Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau.
New Zealand, by contrast, were at full strength for what was the first international at the Principality Stadium played in front of a capacity crowd since February last year.
Wales flyhalf Gareth Anscombe, himself a native New Zealander, was playing his first Test in over two years after a knee injury. But he had a nightmare start when his pass was intercepted by Beauden Barrett just four minutes into the match for a try converted by Jordie.
Anscombe, however, got Wales on the scoreboard with a sixth-minute penalty.
Jordie Barrett kicked another penalty before Wales suffered a huge setback when Jones left the field after tackling the fullback. Experienced centre Jonathan Davies took over as captain, with Will Rowlands replacing Jones.
Six minutes before half time, the All Blacks had another try, their slick handling belying the fact the stadium’s retractable roof had been left open despite the rain.
Ardie Savea picked up from a ruck before releasing scrumhalf Perenara for an unconverted try.
Wales suffered another injury blow when flank Ross Moriarty was tackled by prop Nepo Laulala and flank Ethan Blackadder, with Laulala yellow-carded for not wrapping his arm.
Anscombe kicked his second penalty but New Zealand were still 18-6 ahead at the break.
That became 21-6 thanks to another Jordie Barrett penalty before the struggling Anscombe was replaced by Rhys Priestland, making his first international appearance since 2017.
Priestland kicked a penalty but New Zealand scored a third try when wing Will Jordan regathered his excellent chip over the cover defence.
Williams gave Wales a sniff of a comeback when Priestland cleverly stabbed a kick behind the defence which the centre latched on to for a try – a score greeted by deafening cheers at the 75,000-capacity ground.
New Zealand, however, crushed Welsh hopes with three tries in six minutes from Dalton Papali’i, Sevu Reece and centre Anton Lienert-Brown.
Beauden Barrett then rounded off victory by intercepting a McNicholl pass intended for Josh Adams and bursting clear.
New Zealand continue their tour against Italy next weekend when Wales are at home to world champions South Africa.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images