All Blacks' late rally too much for Wales
REPORT: New Zealand scored three second-half tries to secure a 33-18 win over an impressive Wales team in Cardiff on Saturday.
The All Blacks held a slender one-point (12-11) lead at half-time, before racing into a 26-11 lead going into the final quarter.
A Gareth Davies try briefly gave Wales hope, closing the gap to 18-26, before a well-worked try by Rieko Ioane in the 73rd minute (his second) sealed the win.
Waisake Naholo and Ioane each scored two tries to help world champions New Zealand extend their winning streak over Wales to 30 matches.
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 and Ioane (twice) crossing, Beauden Barrett kicking four conversions.
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.
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 monopolising first-half possession (68 percent) and territory (74 percent).
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, wing 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 full-back 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 barreled 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 ran in an easy intercept try from a terrible Biggar pass.
Sam 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.
Man of the match: Hallam Amos and Josh Navidi were the most productive among the Welsh players. Aaron Smith was his lippy self, Rieko Ioane scored two crucial tries. Liam Squire and Samuel Whitelock were also very busy. However, our award goes to All Black flank Sam Cane, who took his tackle count well into 20 and did not shirk his other work either.
Moment of the match: The first Rieko Ioane try in the 61st minute - a well-timed intercept - took the stuffing out of Wales, taking New Zealand's advantage beyond two converted tries (26-11). It left Wale with too much ground to make up.
Tries: S Williams, Davies
Pens: Halfpenny 2
For New Zealand:
Tries: Naholo 2, Lienert-Brown, Ioane 2
Cons: Barrett 4
Yellow card: Sam Whitelock (New Zealand, 68 - cynical foul, killing the ball at the tackle)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jamie Roberts.
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)