Gallant Wales run out of steam against 'rusty' All Blacks

AUCKLAND • Waisake Naholo's second try of the rugby match with about 20 minutes remaining helped the All Blacks defeat a combative Wales 39-21 in the first Test at Eden Park yesterday.

Julian Savea, new captain Kieran Read and replacement hooker Nathan Harris also scored tries for the All Blacks with fly-half Aaron Cruden slotting four conversions and two penalties.

Toby Faletau, the No. 8, and scrum-half Rhys Webb claimed tries for Wales - with Dan Biggar adding three penalties and a conversion - as the visitors had looked like they could end a 63-year losing streak against the All Blacks.

The New Zealand bench and final quarter, however, proved to be the difference again, just as they were two years ago in Cardiff when Wales led 16-15 with 10 minutes remaining before the visitors scored three unanswered tries.

"It was brilliant for 60 minutes," Wales coach Warren Gatland said. "We were blowing a bit. They keep coming at you. They can keep putting you under pressure for longer periods. (But) we would have learned a heck of a lot from that."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had spoken of starting a new era after the international retirement of six stalwarts following the World Cup, but the rustiness that has blighted the first match of previous seasons returned.

At times they were brilliant, only for handling errors that undid all the pressure they had built.

It was not until the introduction of the replacements, especially the dynamic Patrick Tuipulotu and Ardie Savea, that the All Blacks managed to overpower the Welsh.

"You don't win Test matches without quality performances. While this one was a little rusty, all our first Test matches of the year we're rusty," Hansen said.

"It was a matter of staying calm and working through the things we weren't doing that well and being more accurate. It was about not getting rattled, listening to the leaders and tidying up the things that were not great."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Gallant Wales run out of steam against 'rusty' All Blacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe