All Blacks vs Wales: Brilliance from Beauden Barrett

The All Blacks have wrapped up the Steinlager Series with a 36-22 victory over Wales at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Brilliance from Beauden Barrett; a replacement for injured first-five Aaron Cruden, helped secure the win but it wasn’t without a ‘defiant comeback’ from the visitors late in the game.

In another poor showing during the first half, the All Blacks once again showed their impact off the bench. Barrett (pictured) being a key man in a period of rugby where the home side ran in three superb tries to surge out to what would prove a match-winning points margin. The Hurricanes player was forced to come into the game early when Cruden suffered [what looked like] a serious neck injury, and information coming out of the All Blacks camp suggests the first-five was receiving treatment and Last Word On Sports hopes he is not removed from the game due to this.

The Welsh team went down fighting, scoring two brilliant late tries to show their pride and the never-ending belief that has made them a popular side among rugby fans the world over. But in the end, after early pressure and territory advantage, it wasn’t enough to complete a shock comeback.

All Blacks vs Wales: As It Happened

There was concern for Malakai Fekitoa early after he took a big knock to the head with his first carry, and the All Black coaches took no chances with their powerful centre-fielder and immediately injected Seta Tamanivalu into the game. There was also concern for Fekitoa’s left leg as he left the field, but he would return in the 14th-minute. Enjoying good possession and territory early, Jonathan Davis made a good run down right touchline, breaking All Black tacklers to put the home side under pressure in their red zone.

Dan Biggar put Wales out to a 3-0 lead after his side was awarded a penalty at the breakdown near the 22-metre line. In his 50th start, Israel Dagg (pictured) scored the first try of the night for the All Blacks after the team turned down a shot at goal an opted for an attacking line out. Davis came up too fast on defence, creating an overlap for the All Blacks, and Dagg was too quick, resulting in an easy try, the 15th of his International career. Aaron Cruden converted in the stiff Wellington breeze, and the All Blacks led 7-3. A few phases earlier, Dagg had started the attacking run for his team with a brilliant floating pass to Waisake Naholo on the left wing, allowing his teammate to sprint down into the Welsh red zone.

Wales had another long period of possession, this time lasting over 13-phases, but turnover ball would again see the All Blacks escape, and Cruden would extend the home team extend their lead to 10-3 after being awarded a penalty. Moments later, tragedy would strike for the All Black first-five. After going into contact, Cruden went down in pain near the halfway line. Play was stopped for sometime, and in what was a suspected neck injury, Cruden was stretchered from the field, replaced by the very capable Beauden Barrett.

Wales turned down three-points to attempt a try from a five-metre line out, but strong All Black mauling would push the Welsh over the touchline close to where the thrown was taken. Certain points would go begging but credit went to the visitors and their attitude for the match was positive. The pressure would keep coming, and the impact of Davis shone through as the centre-fielder powered through the heart of the All Blacks midfield defence to go on the front foot. Nearly scoring in the right corner, Wales recycled possession quickly to create an overlap.

In one of the better attacking moves of the match, the action went from side-to-side and with the last defender beaten, Alun Wyn Jones scored, adding another try to the tally in his long career spanning over 100-games. The Welsh drew even 10-10 when Biggar converted, to close out the first half. The crowd were entertained and fans of ‘rugby’ would have been riveted with this close result after 40 minutes.

Coming out of the sheds after the halftime break, the challenge for Wales was to put in another 40-minute performance that would keep the All Blacks under pressure, and not just for a quarter of the half like in the First Test. They brought an intensity to the match and a big collision in the air between Naholo and Liam Williams saw Wales escape early NZ pressure in the opening minutes of the second half. Both players gladly got up and a penalty was awarded to the visitors.

Barrett had an immediate impact, floating a pass across to his Super Rugby team captain Dane Coles, who steamed downfield before Tamanivalu; who had been subbed on permanently at halftime, nearly scored in the left corner. Barrett continued to direct the match, and he would play a major part in the All Blacks taking the lead. A great build-up resulted in Ben Smith crossing the chalk, and the Highlanders captain notched 100-points at International level in the process–it was all setup by Barrett, who broke free of two Welsh tacklers, setting the visitors reeling on defence, and Smith was able to run away and score after receiving the pass. Following the conversion, the All Blacks led 17-10 in Wellington.

Brilliance from Beauden Barrett

Barrett just continued to surge, and after the Welsh had been pinned in their own half, thanks large in part to a terrible decision by the scrambling Biggar, the All Blacks got possession back with a five-metre scrum. When the forwards nearly powered their way over, the All Blacks had an overlap, and Barrett scored under the posts, the second try in as many minutes for the home side. It was Barrett’s 10th try for the All Blacks, and after his conversion, the All Blacks led 24-10 as Wales looked completely shell shocked.

The tries kept on coming, this time Naholo was the benefit of a brilliantly executed scrum and was able to score his third try in two weeks, and in less than 20-minutes gone in the Second Half, the All Blacks had put on 29-points to lead 29-10 after 58-minutes. It got better for the home fans when local hero Ardie Savea was the next to score on the back of a 100-metre break from the All Blacks thanks to Naholo and TJ Perenara who ran the bulk of the metres, and Savea was waiting in support to score his first try in the black jersey. Barrett converted, and the All Blacks were dominant leaders 36-10.

Wales couldn’t get any possession and were suddenly falling off nearly every tackle, a very disappointing performance considering the visitors went to halftime even on the scoreboard. Some late respite came in the form of Williams who had looked impressive on the few occasions he had ball in hand. With space to his right and pace to burn, Williams (pictured) scored what could best be described as a try of little consolation, but Biggar was able to make the conversion and the Welsh cut the score to 36-17.

Late resurgence from brave Wales

Refusing to go down without a fight, finally some luck went the way of Wales and Jamie Roberts was able to latch on to an intercept and sprint 50-metres downfield. The All Blacks couldn’t get back on defence, and strong ball carrying by Davis saw Wales score their second try in as many minutes, making the score 36-22. Was a late comeback on the cards?

Unfortunately, no even though the Welsh were certainly going all out to cut the losing margin down as much as they could but in the end, Wales were unable to score anymore points. The All Blacks ran out the winners 36-22 and take the series with the third and final test to be played in Dunedin’s fabulous Forsyth-Barr Stadium on Saturday June 25.

All Blacks 36

Tries: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, Waisake Naholo, Ardie Savea. Penalties: Aaron Cruden (1) Conversions: Aaron Cruden (1) Beauden Barrett (3)

Wales 22

Tries: Alun Wyn Jones, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davis. Penalties: Dan Biggar (1)  Conversions: Dan Biggar (2)

“Main photo credit”