All Blacks too strong for Wales
November 7, 2009
New Zealand's Dan Carter exploits a gap in the Wales defence during their clash at the Millennium Stadium
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Dan Carter Warren Gatland Zac Guildford James Hook Andrew Hore Paul James Stephen Jones Richie McCaw
New Zealand held off a valiant Wales side to secure a 19-12 victory in their clash at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
A second-half try from hooker Andrew Hore and 14 points from the boot of fly-half Dan Carter carried the All Blacks to a deserved victory in a gruelling encounter with four penalties from Wales No.10 Stephen Jones failing to bring an end to a miserable run of defeats at the hands of the visitors dating back to 1953.
British & Irish Lions tourist James Hook made only his second Test start at fullback for Wales, while Ospreys prop Paul James won his second Wales cap a full six years after his first. New Zealand were without banned pair Sitiveni Sivivatu and Tony Woodcock and, as a result, 20-year-old wing Zac Guildford was handed his debut and prop Wyatt Crockett only his second All Blacks appearance.
Wales showed a willingness to run the ball from the first whistle, with scrum-half Gareth Cooper and winger Leigh Halfpenny catching the eye early on, and they were rewarded for their endeavours when All Blacks No.8 Keiran Read was penalised at the breakdown. Halfpenny stepped up to take the long-range kick but his effort was wide of the mark.
There was no such mistake from Carter after Halfpenny was penalised for not releasing with the No.10's kick sailing over from 40m to give his side the lead against the run of play.
A great touch-finder from Stephen Jones gave the home side great field position on the quarter hour and a penalty against All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw offered the Wales No.10 the chance to level the score - which he duly did.
The All Blacks responded well, with Carter pulling the strings in deliberate kicking-orientated approach, and while Halfpenny was able to scramble the first attack away, the visitors were soon back on the front foot with scrum-half Brendan Leonard seemingly the beneficiary. But the score was ruled out by Television Match Official Graham Hughes only for Carter to slot the resulting penalty.
Wales were not to be deterred and rallied almost immediately, with Martyn Williams and Jamie Roberts combining well to conjure an opening. New Zealand forced a turnover but pressure on fullback Mils Muliaina gave Wales the ball at the lineout only for the hosts to waste the opportunity.
Despite their best intentions in attack, Wales suffered at the tackle area where they were often outmuscled by their southern hemisphere rivals or felt the wrath of referee Craig Joubert. But the whistle went in their favour just past the half hour mark with All Blacks centre Conrad Smith caught on the wrong side of the ruck. The New Zealander's indiscretion allowed Stephen Jones to level the scores with his second penalty to ensure the sides entered the break all-square.
The All Blacks had the lead with two minutes of the re-start when Martyn Williams was penalised for a deliberate knock on as the visitors closed in on the line again, with Carter slotting the kick. The All Blacks raised the tempo significantly and there was more trouble for Wales when a careless off load from Andy Powell only found Carter but the All Blacks were uncharacteristically clumsy in their execution when gifted the ball inside the 22.
A clinical passage of play followed from the All Blacks and it saw them take a firm grip on the game. Priceless quick ball from replacement scrum-half Jimmy Cowan set up Crockett and then Guildford before hooker Andrew Hore forced his way over with a little help from his friends.
Lock Brad Thorn led the next charge but on this occasion Cowan's pass found the referee to offer Wales a brief respite which lasted all of a minute. The All Blacks streamed forward with another slick passing move, with only a desperate tackle from winger Shane Williams preventing Smith from touching down for a score.
The TMO was troubled again moments later after Read burrowed close from a scrum with the replay proving inconclusive. Some excellent defence continued to frustrate the All Blacks out while centre Ma'a Nonu was guilty of backing himself when perhaps he should have passed. In the end, they settled for another Carter penalty that brought him within one point of former All Blacks playmaker Andrew Mehrtens on the all-time list.
Stephen Jones cancelled out that effort with a long-range score of his own to bring his side back to within ten points but they still had plenty of work to do with less than a quarter of the game remaining.
A trademark break from Shane Williams carved the All Blacks open before replacement scrum-half Martin Roberts was hauled down by Carter's high challenge. The ball was recycled out to Hook but he ran out of room under pressure from the All Blacks' defence. New Zealand regained their composure to withstand a rare spell of sustained Welsh pressure.
Another excellent kick from Stephen Jones brought the hosts to within a converted score as the game entered the last five minutes and an intercept from second row Alun-Wyn Jones soon had the capacity crowd on their feet. But the lock did not have the legs to get to the line, lacked support and his tired pass was knocked down by Guildford.
They earned a penalty at the next scrum to claim possession of the ball deep inside the All Blacks' half but they failed to secure the ball on their own throw and with it went their last real chance of ending their losing run.
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