Gatland envious of All Blacks' intensity
June 19, 2010
The All Blacks perform the Haka at Carisbrook for the final time © Getty Images
Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted his side were given a lesson in terms of how to play high-intensity rugby following their 42-9 mauling at the hands of New Zealand in Dunedin.
An impressive display in the first half ensured the tourists trailed just 15-9 at the break but they failed to register a point in the second half as the All Blacks took control thanks largely to a superb performance from fly-half Daniel Carter, who scored two tries and kicked four conversions and three penalties for a 27-point haul - his highest match tally against the Welsh.
In all New Zealand scored five tries, two in the first half, to Keven Mealamu and Cory Jane, and three in the second which saw replacement back Richard Kahui also get on the score-sheet.
"I thought the way we played in the first half was really pleasing," Gatland said. "I thought we put the All Blacks under a lot of pressure but they were outstanding in the second half where they were able to punish us from turnovers or creating chances. There were positives from the first half but it's just making sure we learn to live with a team and maintain that for longer periods. Fifty minutes wasn't good enough, we've got to be able to sustain that intensity for 80 minutes."
Wales did create some try-scoring opportunities in the first half but in the end had to settle for a drop goal and penalty from fly-half Stephen Jones that sandwiched a penalty effort from half-way by wing Leigh Halfpenny.
Carter had an early kick charged down by Andrew Bishop that Israel Dagg tidied up and then Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones failed to spot two players outside him and opted to take the tackle which saw another chance go begging. In the second half Brad Thorn coughed up the ball and Lee Byrne and Halfpenny hacked ahead, only for Kahui to beat the Welsh right winger to the ball as the All Blacks cleared their lines. It was the third successive match in which Wales had been kept try-less by New Zealand.
"They are a difficult team for us to score against," admitted Gatland. "We did create a couple of chances but unfortunately we didn't take the opportunity to convert those. There are no complaints about the result."
Gatland was less gracious about Jane's try which came midway through the first half when Wales were trailing just 10-6. The Hurricanes' winger's finish was excellent but the Wales coach believed the hosts had stolen the ball illegally at the previous ruck.
"I was very disappointed with Cory Jane's try," he said. "I thought it was a big moment in the game where I felt Conrad Smith had come in from the side and flicked it between his legs and it was a costly seven points for us. For us that was a fairly important moment."
Despite the result Gatland felt the match had been hugely beneficial for his side - particularly the younger members of the team such as Tom Prydie, Bishop and Rob McCusker. "The fact that we're here in one of the strongest rugby nations in the world is a great opportunity for us to learn. If we'd been somewhere else on tour in another country and getting a result and doing okay it gives you a false sense of where you're at," the New Zealander said. "The All Blacks play at that intensity for 80 minutes and for a lot of our players, particularly the youngsters, the new guys out here, they would have learned a massive amount from it."
Gatland does have some injury worries heading into next weekend's second Test in Hamilton with fly-half Jones and centre Bishop having x-rays on hand injuries. His opposite number Graham Henry also has concerns over lock Anthony Boric (cheek) and full-back Israel Dagg (concussion) and conceded they could be missing at Waikato Stadium next weekend. But those injuries aside, Henry was largely satisfied with the performance that brought the curtain down on international rugby at Carisbrook, particularly the efforts of his captain Richie McCaw and star fly-half Carter.
"It was just a good way to say thank you to this ground and say farewell to this ground," he said. "I'm delighted with the way the guys played in the second half. I thought the two leaders - Richie and Daniel - were outstanding. We are pleased with the second-half performance. It took us a while to get there but that's what international rugby is like I guess."
McCaw, who equalled the record of Sean Fitzpatrick with 39 wins in 45 Tests as captain, said the Welsh had provided a sterner test than Ireland the previous week. "There is no doubt we expected the Welsh to be a bit better. They are always pretty physical and they were quite smart and didn't allow us to get nice front-foot ball," the skipper said. "They had a good line in defence and I think we were a bit guilty of playing a bit too much rugby in our own half. A couple of mistakes put us under pressure but I think in the second half we played a bit more territory. Our defence set up some turnovers which we capitalised on."
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter