Wales make All Blacks work for victory

Waisake Naholo scored two tries for New Zealand

New Zealand’s All Blacks opened the June Internationals with a 39-21 victory over Wales at Eden Park in Auckland.

The match was the All Blacks first since they won the Rugby World Cup in October last year and were noticeably rusty against a Welsh side that delivered their best peformance this year.

New Zealand outscored Wales by five tries to two but could only pull away from Wales in the final quarter after trailing 15-18 at half time.

Wales led 18-21 in the final 20 minutes but the All Blacks pulled away to earn a 27th consecutive victory over the Welsh.

The 18-point margin victory extended the All Blacks’ outstanding run at Eden Park where they have gone undefeated in their last 35 Test matches.

Wales looked promising – leading 18-15 at half-time and 21-18 with 18 minutes remaining – and sensed their 63-year wait for a famous victory over the world champions was on the cards.

But, when the All Blacks unleashed their trademark storming finish they wrapped up the game with late tries to Waisake Naholo, Read and Nathan Harris.

Naholo scored a double for the All Blacks and Julian Savea also touched down with Aaron Cruden landing four conversions and two penalties.

For Wales, Taulupe Faletau and Rhys Webb scored tries with Dan Biggar contributing a conversion and three penalties.

Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones had the honour of leading the teams on to the field in his centenary Test but then blotted his copybook by giving away an early penalty.

Cruden, who slotted comfortably into the backline general’s role vacated by Dan Carter, hit the uprights with that kick but had the All Blacks on the board soon after with a close-range shot.

Wales muscled up to force the All Blacks back to their own line and quickly regained the lead with a try to backrower Faletau.

They drew the All Blacks defence into one corner then went wide to the other side, taking right wing Naholo off his line to cover a barren midfield which allowed Faletau to cross unopposed in the corner.

Soon after the restart the All Blacks struck twice in quick succession.

Naholo stepped around Hallam Amos to lead the All Blacks deep into Welsh territory where Cruden slotted a precise cross kick into the arms of Savea who scored in the left corner.

It was one of the few bright spots in Savea’s game who had trouble containing explosive Welsh wing George North.

It was a 30-metre North break that again lifted Wales’ spirits but their attempt to test Ben Smith with a high kick backfired.

The All Blacks fullback took the ball under pressure and launched a counter-attack that ended 80 metres downfield with a try to Naholo.

As the game morphed into a frantic period of attack and counter-attack, marred by handling lapses, it was Wales who broke the deadlock.

Biggar landed two penalties before Liam Williams opened up the All Blacks with a burst through a fragmented defence and put Rhys Webb in for a try under the posts.

Cruden and Biggar swapped penalties early in the second half before the All Blacks stepped up several gears.

Naholo scored his second try running off an Aaron Smith tap penalty close to the line.

The power of New Zealand’s bench was evident as Patrick Tuipulotu sent Read over and then Charlie Faumuina set up Harris’ try.

Wales will play a match against Super Rugby side the Chiefs on Tuesday and then on Saturday next week they face New Zealand again in Wellington for the second of three Tests.

Final Score New Zealand 39 (15) Wales 21 (18) 

Scorers

New Zealand
Tries – J.Savea. W.Naholo 2, K.Read, N.Harris
Pen – A.Cruden 2
Con – A.Cruden 4
Drop –
Cards –

Wales
Tries – T.Faletau, R.Webb
Pen – D.Biggar 3
Con – D.Biggar
Drop –
Cards –

Attendance : 46270

Match Officials
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Ref 1:Jaco Peyper (South Africa),
Assistant Ref 2:Will Houston (Australia)
TMO : George Ayoub

Teams

New Zealand

15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.

Replacements : 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Seta Tamanivalu.

Wales

15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.

Replacements : 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Scott Williams.

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