The All Blacks won the third-place play-off in Tokyo this Friday

2019 Rugby World Cup Bronze Final: New Zealand 40-17 Wales


P – 35

New Zealand wins – 32

Wales wins – 3

Did you know?

  • These two have met four times in the World Cup, with the All Blacks winning all four times.
  • New Zealand have won two out of three previous bronze finals. In 1991 they defeated Scotland, in 1999 they lost to South Africa and in 2003 they defeated France.
  • Warren Gatland’s last outing with Wales marks the 15th time a head coach has taken on his native country in a World Cup match. Of  14 other occasions (13 different coaches), only one was successful. Eddie Jones led England to victory over Australia in this World Cup.
  • New Zealand have only once lost back-to-back RWC matches. In 1999, they lost to France in the semis, then lost to South Africa in the bronze final.

In a nutshell

It may have been the game no one wanted, but this third-place play-off served as a victory lap for so many figures who have thrilled us in the Test arena over the years.

Ben Smith got two tries to send him on the way to France. Ryan Crotty had his score. Sonny Bill Williams and Kieran Read had their last win in black and a way to say thank you to departing coach Steve Hansen. Wales were still swinging too, of course, and Warren Gatland will appreciate his charges putting in one last tilt before he heads home to New Zealand to take over at the Chiefs.

But it has been an exhausting and injury-riddled end to this World Cup for a Wales side so close to making the final. If they had won in the semi would likely have metaphorically been on one leg, and they faced a Kiwi group full of running in Tokyo. Six tries to two here tells you a bit of that story.

Prop Joe Moody started it all off, galloping in for the opener in open space after Read and Brodie Retallick made nice touches. An Aaron Smith cut with Beauden Barrett left Adam Beard and Dillon Lewis stuck in the mud as the full-back cut through in ruthless fashion for his own score to be 14 points up early. The All Blacks would play front-foot rugby for large swathes of this match.

Gatland’s Wales are tough, though.

2019 Rugby World Cup Bronze Final: New Zealand v Wales

Hitting up: Hallam Amos takes contact(Getty Images)

Lewis almost made up for it soon after, crashed over the line from close, but he was held up. Wales could go back and build again from a another maul and Tomos Williams worked his forwards round the corner, though it was all so slow as All Blacks slammed into tackles. Patient ’til that point, Rhys Patchell got a ball on the drift with Williams retreating, and threw a pearler of a cut-out pass to Hallam Amos who took it to the house for a score.Patchell converted.

The running went the other way again. A switchblade line from Ben Smith gave New Zealand their third try. It all came from Retallick thieving ball from a ruck, a  Read basketball pass over the top and then Smith deciding to halt his run and then completely change direction. He eventually tumbled over in a tangle of bodies.

The veteran – playing his last game for the All Blacks before heading to play for Pau – had a second try at the stroke of half-time. He took ball from his old Highlanders mucker Aaron Smith, and with little touchline real estate to work with, he pushed out a hand to keep Tomos Williams at bay and grab another.

After a break in which the emperor of Japan got a standing ovation, the valedictorian run for departing All Blacks continued.

Ryan Crotty lashed onto an offload to go over, and then everyone thought Ben Smith had his hat-trick. But while he threw off an Owen Lane tackle and powered to the line, it was chalked off for the build up – Sonny Bill Williams lobbed a pass over the top but the touch before it got to Smith meant it was a knock-on.

2019 Rugby World Cup Bronze Final: New Zealand v Wales

Familiar sight: Sonny Bill Williams throws an offload (Getty Images)

Both teams rang the changes and the crowd got to sound their appreciation for towering Welsh presence Alun Wyn Jones. And Josh Adams got his seventh with a pick and go, of all thing. He was clearly hungry for more but the ball could never be worked to him in space.

Fly-half Richie Mo’unga rounded off the scoring, getting an unconverted try from ten metres out, but at the end the score didn’t matter. The crowd got the chance to sound their appreciation for the departing men, who cut emotional figures at the end – perhaps the biggest cheers reserved for coaches Hansen and Gatland.

Star man

Many All Blacks fans will be sad to see Ben Smith go and he rewarded their support with a fine parting display. His first try was a whip-smart change of direction and the score saw him surpass Jonah Lomu on the list of all-tim All Blacks try-scorers.

His second saw him get totally dismiss Tomos Williams with big hand-off and danced in. As the game tore on he was still coming off his wing to get involved, risking heavy traffic to make carries. If you can’t be in a World Cup final one last time, it is the kind of farewell you would want.

2019 Rugby World Cup Bronze Final: New Zealand v Wales

Seventh heaven: Josh Adams gets his seventh try of the tournament (Getty Images)

The reaction

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: “Firstly, I’d just like to say how proud I am of our team. There was a lot of external talk about not wanting to play this game. We’ve come off an extremely disappointing result against England, where we got beaten by a team that played better than us on the day, but we’ve come back and showed some real character and commitment to the jersey, so hopefully we’ve made a lot of New Zealanders proud.

“I’d like to commend Wales, they came to play and it was a good game of footy. The game is bigger than all of us and we’re continually trying to capture people to become part of it.

“If you come with intent to play and look to try to score tries, like both teams did today, we can capture more and more people and get them excited about the game.

“Lastly, I’d like to wish England and South Africa all the very best tomorrow. We’ll have a new world champion and we’ll commend them for their efforts because it’s a very hard tournament to win.”

Wales boss Warren Gatland said: “I hope that what we have achieved in the last 12 years, they continue to build on that because what we have done and what we have achieved, it would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums.”

The teams

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty (Jordie Barrett 56), Sonny Bill Williams (Anton Lienert-Brown 56), Rieko Ioane; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith (Brad Webber 56); Joe Moody (Atu Moli 56), Dane Coles (Liam Coltman 24), Nepo Laulala (Angus Ta’avao 56), Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett (Patrick Tuipulotu 60), Shannon Frizzell (Matt Todd 60), Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt).

Tries: Moody 5, Barrett 13, B Smith 32, Crotty 42, Mo’unga 76. Con: Mo’unga 6, 14, 33, 43.

Wales: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin (Hadleigh Parkes 60), Josh Adams; Rhys Patchell (Dan Biggar 46), Tomos Williams (Gareth Davies 46); Nicky  Smith (Rhys Carre, 44), Ken Owens (Elliot Dee 44), Dillon Lewis (Wyn Jones 77), Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (capt)(Jake Ball 56), Justin Tipuric, James Davies, Ross Moriarty (Aaron Shingler 46).

Tries: Amos 20, Adams 59. Con: Patchell 21, Biggar 61. Pen: Patchell 27.

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