What's hot and what's not from the second Test between New Zealand and Wales in Wellington
The All Blacks wrapped up the Steinlager Series in Wellington by taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the Test series against Wales. A highly competitive first 40 minutes finished 10-10, Alun Wyn Jones’s try just before the break cancelling out Israel Dagg’s earlier effort. However, New Zealand scored four tries in 14 minutes midway through the second half to wrap up the victory, showing the clinical edge for which they are renowned. Liam Williams cut a great angle to score in the 74th minute and Jonathan Davies followed him over a couple of minutes later, but by that point the world champions had built an unassailable lead.
Super sub – Beauden Barrett arrived in the 33rd minute after Aaron Cruden was taken off on a stretcher and he made the most of his run at fly-half. In attack, he broke through the middle of Wales’ centres and fed Ben Smith, who ran down the wing to score. He scored a try himself from close range, mixed up the game with a variety of kicks and made some important contributions in defence. In the build up to Wales’ third try, he stopped Jamie Roberts in the 22 after he’d made a chargedown interception, then tackled Rhys Priestland, who’d taken the offload from Roberts. He couldn’t make it three from three and prevent Jonathan Davies from going over but it was a good effort nonetheless.
All-action forwards – Brodie Retallick again showed why he is one of the best locks in the world, making hard yards and big tackles as well as showing soft hands. Hooker Dane Coles epitomises the word ‘dynamic’ when he has ball in hand, showing plenty of pace and a decent step. Ardie Savea added another dimension when he came on too.
For Wales, Taulupe Faletau was everywhere, in attack and defence. When Sam Warburton made an interception in the second half, it was telling that Faletau was the man in support, although he’ll be disappointed that he couldn’t take the pass from his captain. Warburton also stood out for his contributions around the field and special mention must also go to Gethin Jenkins – he’s 35 and has played 131 Tests but he’s still putting in huge hits.
Purple Patch – He only arrived in New Zealand on Monday but Rhys Patchell showed little sign of jet lag in Wellington. It was his first Test start and he was wearing the No 15 shirt Liam Williams had so impressed in a week previously – but he looked at home. He has a surprising turn of pace when running the ball back from deep and superb distribution, be it long or short passes, which allowed Wales to get the ball wide quickly and try to gain ground on the wings. With Leigh Halfpenny back from injury, Williams and now Patchell, not to mention Gareth Anscombe and Matthew Morgan, Wales are somewhat spoilt for choice at full-back.
Pre-match show – The lights went out at Westpac Stadium about 15 minutes before kick-off as Lizzie Marvelly performed and the effect was brilliant. One spotlight fell on the Kiwi singer and the words ‘All Blacks’ scrolled on the boards around the field but otherwise it was pitch black. It created a brilliant atmosphere before the start and they followed that with fireworks – proving that less can be more when compared to the light show put on at the Millennium Stadium ahead of a Wales-England game a couple of years ago.
Battered bodies – The point’s been made before, but are three-Test series really a good idea the year after a World Cup? It was 12 months ago that these Wales players started their preparations for RWC 2015 and embarking on a four-match tour of New Zealand is hardly allowing those bodies time to recover. Surely, giving June tours a miss in that post-World Cup year would be better in terms of player welfare and it’s something World Rugby should look at. Three-Test series are great but not just a few months after a gruelling World Cup campaign. It’s time to put the financial benefits to one side and consider the players; give them time to recover mentally and physically. After all, without players you have no product to sell.
Rush-up defenders – Bursting out of the line onto defence with the hope of cutting off an opponent’s attacking move before it’s got started is something lots of players like to do. It was a trait of the great Brian O’Driscoll, in fact. But if you are going to rush out of defence you need to make the tackle, otherwise you leave your team-mates exposed. Unfortunately for Jonathan Davies, when he rushed up in the 20th minute he didn’t make the tackle, New Zealand spread the ball and Israel Dagg made the most of a two-on-one. Davies did redeem himself at the end of the second half with a burst through midfield followed by a long pass out wide to Alun Wyn Jones, who scored in the corner, and a try late on too.
Loose lineouts – Wales got creative with a few of their lineouts – but more often than not those set moves didn’t go to plan, which meant they put pressure back on themselves. There were long throws that took some cleaning up in the middle of the field and short ones that resulted in similar errors too. One planned move involved Alun Wyn Jones passing back to Ken Owens but the ball went forward, another short throw was stolen by New Zealand and led to Ben Smith’s try. They went long at a five-metre lineout midway through the second half – a prime attacking opportunity – but the throw went awry and a few phases later Ardie Savea had scored.
These set-piece moves need to be slick and Wales were not well-oiled enough. Then you had the set play New Zealand produced off the back of the scrum – Kieran Read’s pass over the top of tacklers to Aaron Smith, who put over Waisake Naholo. That’s how it’s done – quick and slick, and resulting in five points.
NEW ZEALAND: I Dagg; B Smith, M Fekitoa (S Tamanivalu 2-15, ht), R Crotty, J Savea; A Cruden (B Barrett 33), A Smith (TJ Perenara 65); J Moody (W Crockett 54), D Coles (N Harris 75), O Franks (C Faumuina 47), B Retallick (P Tuipulotu 68), S Whitelock J Kaino, S Cane (A Savea 58), K Read (capt).
Tries: Dagg, B Smith, Barrett, Naholo, Savea. Cons: Cruden, Barrett 3. Pen: Cruden.
WALES: R Patchell; L Williams, J Davies, J Roberts, H Amos; D Biggar (R Priestland 75), R Webb (G Davies 75); G Jenkins (R Evans 24-32, 59), K Owens (S Baldwin 62), S Lee (T Francis 62), L Charteris (B Davies 62), AW Jones, R Moriarty, S Warburton (capt, E Jenkins 75), T Faletau.
Tries: AW Jones, L Williams, J Davies. Cons: Biggar 2. Pen: Biggar.
For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here.