Cardiff - Waisake
Naholo and Rieko Ioane eached scored two tries to help world champions
New Zealand extend their winning streak over Wales to 30 matches with an
entertaining 33-18 victory on Saturday.
Naholo crossed twice in a first-half dominated by Wales in terms of
possession and territory but unable to muster more than two Leigh
Halfpenny penalties and a late Scott Williams try.
The All Blacks moved out of first gear in the second period against a
visibly wilting Wales, Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane (2) crossing,
Beauden Barrett kicking four conversions. Gareth Davies grabbed a late
consolation try for Wales.
It took the All Blacks' record for 2017 to 12 wins from 15, including
a five-match whitewash in their November games, having beaten the
Barbarians, France, a French XV and Scotland.
The defeat meant more misery for Wales, whose last victory over the
All Blacks came 64 years ago, in 1953, the year which also witnessed the
coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
"We're proud of our defence and how we made the most of our opportunities," All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock told BBC.
"They're called Test matches for a reason. When you've got two teams
who are up for it, it makes a great spectacle. They're never easy - I
hope I never play in an easy Test."
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: "We penetrated quite a bit in the first half, but didn't get across the line.
"We played a lot of rugby in the second half but we lacked penetration. We will rue the missed opportunities."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had compared his team's historical
record over Wales as like being in a drought, when every day you move
one day closer to it raining - or Wales winning.
But it was not to be, with Warren Gatland's side missing the key
injured Lions trio of Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams.
A more rousing spectacle than Wales' dour 13-6 victory over Georgia
last week was immediately on the cards, with the home side surprisingly
monopolising first-half possession (68%) and territory (74%).
Halfpenny got the scoreboard ticking with a simple penalty after Sonny Bill Williams strayed offside.
But with a rare foray
into Welsh territory, the All Blacks showed exactly what they are
capable of, winger Ioane breaking the first line of defence before
offloading to Aaron Smith, the scrum-half dummying and then finding
Naholo on the wing, the Fiji-born flyer producing a fantastic diving
finish to dot down despite the attention of opposite number Steff Evans.
Barrett hit the extras but Wales came storming back, Taulupe Faletau knocking on a Josh Navidi offload on the Kiwi line.
In-form All Black fullback Damian McKenzie was on hand with an
excellent try-saving tackle on the ubiquitous Navidi before producing an
inch-perfect grubber for Naholo, but the ball was lost and Steff Evans'
counter into space saw him illegally blocked, Halfpenny stepping up to
hit the penalty.
Again, when New Zealand bared their teeth, they looked dangerous, a
Williams grubber collected by Naholo and only a desperate tackle by
Scott Williams enough to prevent a try.
And the pressure told as Smith played a quick tap and go rather than
go for the simple three points, Naholo the beneficiary as he barrelled
over in the corner for his second.
But Wales were not done, a clean Hallam Amos linebreak and offload
finding Dan Biggar who had Scott Williams steaming up outside him, the
centre crossing for a try Halfpenny failed to convert, leaving the score
12-11 to the visitors at half-time.
The tempo subsided considerably in the second-half, the All Blacks
opening the scoring when Ioane produced a brilliant basketball-type
bounce-back for Lienert-Brown to cross for their team's third try.
Soon after, New Zealand closed down the game as a contest when Ioane,
dubbed 'Lazarus' by his teammates this week after overcoming a shoulder
injury that threatened months out to being named in the team, ran in an
easy intercept try from a terrible Biggar pass.
Skipper Whitelock, whose grandfather was a member of the New Zealand
team that lost in 1953, was yellow carded with 12 minutes to play,
Gareth Davies' scrum show and go from the ensuing pressure seeing him
bundle over for a well-deserved try, Halfpenny converting.
But Ioane sprinted in for his second in quick riposte thanks to the
alacrity of a well-worked set-piece move, a five-pointer that sent a
Welsh crowd that had minutes before been baying for blood charging for
the stadium exits to once more drown their sorrows.