Gatland blames wayward kick
November 27, 2010
The Millennium Stadium was quick to acknowledge the significance of Dan Carter's early penalty © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland cited a crucial missed penalty kick to touch by Lee Byrne as the key moment in his side's 37-25 defeat to New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium.
The home side had looked in trouble when they trailed 13-3 early on as tries from Hosea Gear and Mils Muliaina, plus a penalty from Dan Carter which saw him become Test rugby's leading points scorer, put them on the back foot. But, courtesy of four penalties from Stephen Jones, that lead was trimmed to 13-12 with the All Blacks a man down following the sin-binning of replacement flanker Daniel Braid.
But fullback Byrne failed to find the touchline when Wales were awarded a penalty in their own half and they were ruthlessly punished as New Zealand's counter-attack ended with Gear notching his second try of the contest. Further tries followed for Isaia Toeava and replacement John Afoa, before Byrne's consolation with the last play of the match.
Gatland said: "It (missing touch) was massive, wasn't it? We had got back to 13-12, we had all the momentum and we looked strong defensively at that stage. We had some confidence behind us and I thought the All Blacks looked a bit rattled, but to miss touch and have them score from it was a big moment in the game, and those are the things we need to eradicate from our game as those are key moments that can be costly."
Four of New Zealand's five tries came from loose Welsh clearance kicks, and Gatland admitted he was disappointed as he had warned his side about the danger of kicking to New Zealand's lethal back three.
"We need to take advantage of the things we are creating and stop shooting ourselves in the foot," he continued. "We need to work on our kick returns and receptions. We said about getting the ball off the park, we maybe need to do that a bit more, and look to improve our attacking play and kick chase as well - but having said that, we are pleased and proud of the players."
The defeat means Wales have failed to win in seven games, their worst run since a streak of 10 defeats in 2003, and they remain without a win against the All Blacks in 57 years and 24 Tests.
But Gatland insists there are positives to take from an autumn campaign that yielded just one draw, last Friday's dismal effort against Fiji, from four games - most notably the manner in which the Welsh pack have performed.
He said: "There were positives in our performance up front, the scrum went well. We are disappointed but there is plenty to take from meeting the best side in the world and the players know with a bit more accuracy they are not too far away.
"We want to keep playing these teams, we want to play them next weekend and the week after that and the week after that, as that's how you get better. There is a massive amount to take forward. Our pack has gone well against Australia and South Africa and did well again tonight. "We have some key players that aren't available in our backs with regards to Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams, and if the guy who dances (Gavin Henson) starts playing rugby at some stage that will give us much more depth."
New Zealand's win saw them wrap up a third grand slam of the Home Unions in just six seasons, and coach Graham Henry praised the efforts of his players, particularly captain Richie McCaw, for rounding off a demanding 2010 schedule, which has seen them play 14 Tests in just over six months, in fine style.
Former Wales boss Henry said: "We are delighted to have won and achieved a Grand Slam. It's a special day.
"I thought Richie's captaincy this week was right on the button to get these guys through. They have played 14 Tests in a short period and were starting to struggle a wee bit so I thought that was a very important part of the week in terms of how we finished and prepared for the game.
"I was delighted by the character of the side. We were a man down and there was just a point in it at one stage, and that's a telling moment in games like this and to have the character to come through that and score some great tries was pretty special. The composure under pressure was excellent."
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