KEEP DREAM­ING

64 years of hurt that just won’t end 30 de­feats in a row at the hands of the mighty All Blacks

Wales On Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - DELME PARFITT Rugby Editor delme.parfitt@waleson­line.co.uk

WALES briefly threat­ened to claim a first vic­tory against New Zealand since 1953 be­fore nor­mal ser­vice was re­sumed at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium.

War­ren Gat­land’s men trailed just 12-11 at half-time after Scott Wil­liams’ try had hauled them back into it.

But Wales will rue not mak­ing the most of the lion’s share of ter­ri­tory and pos­ses­sion in the first 40 min­utes, their fail­ure to put points on the board prov­ing so costly.

New Zealand crossed the white­wash with their only two at­tacks of the open­ing pe­riod with wing Waisake Na­holo dot­ting down on both oc­ca­sions.

There was a sec­ond half try dou­ble from fel­low wing Reiko Ioane and one from re­place­ment cen­tre An­ton Lienert-Brown which meant the touch­down by Gareth Davies, who came on for the in­jured Rhys Webb early on, was aca­demic.

GROUNDHOG DAY UL­TI­MATELY, it was all de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar, even if it was deli­ciusly ex­cit­ing at times too.

You should know the script by now; Wales come ca­reer­ing out of the blocks, of­fer up a heroic per­for­mance, have ev­ery­one dar­ing to dream about an end to an All Black hoodoo stretch­ing back to 1953 and then...pop!

And the pop ar­rived ei­ther side of the hour mark when New Zealand pro­duced a try dou­ble-salvo which, if not on its own de­ci­sive, was just a killer pe­riod for the home side.

There was so much to ad­mire about the per­for­mance of War­ren Gat­land’s men. It was gutsy, it was sprin­kled with mo­ments of real qual­ity, it was choc­ful of brav­ery and pride.

But in the end it wasn’t quite good enough. In the end New Za­land were able to win even though they spent most of the game de­fend­ing.

So the wait goes on...

BREATH­LESS, FE­RO­CIOUS MODERN Test rugby com­bat is hardly for the faint-hearted, but ev­ery now and again alomg comes an en­counter that jolts you for it’s sheer in­ten­sity, fe­roc­ity and re­lent­less­ness.

This was one of those, and it was com­pelling from start to fin­ish.

Some of the tack­ling was sim­ply bru­tal, while the pace of the play was breath­less.

The All Blacks’ tri­umph was stay­ing in the game while Wales emp­tied the tank in the first half.

Wales, mean­while, came a crop­per be­cause, al­though they ral­lied with Davies’ 69th minute try, they sim­ply ran out of gas in the third quar­ter. Un­sur­pris­ingly, they could not main­tain their first half lev­els for 80 min­utes.

How many times do we hear play­ers talk­ing about the im­por­tance of go­ing the whole 80 min­utes? Eas­ier said than done.

A LES­SON IN WHAT MAT­TERS WALES dom­i­nated gen­eral play through­out the first half to the ex­tent that, by the end of it, they led in ev­ery depart­ment – other than the score­board.

After the first quar­ter the posses- sion stats were 80-20 in the hosts’ favour and 81% of the ac­tion had taken place in New Zealand’s half.

By the 23rd minute the All Blacks had got through a stag­ger­ing 76 tack­les com­pared to Wales’ 11. It might be a sport­ing cliche, but had it been a box­ing match the ref­eree may have stopped it.

And yet the All Blacks scored from their only two chances. Their only two at­tacks.

Na­holo was the fin­isher on both oc­ca­sions, the first be­ing from a piece of magic in mid­field by wing Ioane, the sec­ond com­ing after a wave of at­tacks that be­gan when Beau­den Bar­rett kicked a penalty in front of the posts to touch.

Wales got them­selves out of jail some­what with cen­tre Wil­liams’ try in first half over­time be­cause up to then they had pro­vided an ob­ject les­son in how not to make pres­sure tell in terms of points.

Ar­guably the stand-out ex­am­ple was when Josh Navidi punched bril­liantly through the All Blacks de­fence shortly be­fore half-time only for a poor pass by Leigh Halfpenny to cause Hal­lam Amos to spill the ball for­ward.

OFF-LOAD­ING THE DIF­FER­ENCE MUCH is made of Wales’ pur­suit of a more open and fluid style, but there’s more to it than at­tempt­ing to put a light­ning quick winger through a gap.

Time and again we see how im­por­tant the art of off-load­ing the ball in the tackle can be in a team’s quest to move for­ward.

And time and again, Wales’ for-

wards man­aged to do just that, es­pe­cially in the first half.

One ex­am­ple was the 22nd minute attack by Wales that saw them move through 15 phases after St­eff Evans had made a break from the scrumhalf po­si­tion.

The move was kept alive be­cause the ball was kept alive, and the pace of it all had the All Blacks scram­bling.

WALES’ LI­NE­OUT WOB­BLE

PRE­CISELY what went wrong will be thrashed out on the lap­tops but Wales’ li­ne­out fail­ings, par­tic­u­larly in the first half, were costly.

In the 11th minute Dan Biggar planted a deep penalty to touch on the All Blacks 22 only for the set­piece to be lost.

And the field po­si­tion that led to New Zealand’s sec­ond try came from an­other botched li­ne­out in the 34th minute.

In the 50th minute too, after a sump­tu­ous deep penalty to touch by Biggar, the re­ceiver dropped the ball, Wales were on the back foot im­me­di­ately and then a big hit on Navidi by Sam Cane forced a tur­over.

Wales weren’t helped in this depart­ment by the loss of Jake Ball to a shoul­der in­jury, but not be­ing able to ex­e­cute in such a core area isn’t re­ally an op­tion against a side as ruth­less as the world cham­pi­ons.

It un­der­mined the home side’s mo­men­tum on too many oc­ca­sions.

IOANE’S STROLL

WHILE Wales sup­port­ers will la­ment what might have been the All Blacks’ fi­nal try through Ioane un­der­lined the sheer gap that still ex­ists be­tween th­ese teams.

With cap­tain Sam White­lock in the sin-bin and the deficit re­duced to eight points, many teams, Wales in­cluded, would have ca­pit­u­lated in the fi­nal 10 min­utes or so.

New Zealand just got on with win­ning the game.

Down to 14 men they cre­ated a mag­nif­i­cent first phase try off a scrum which saw Ioane go over all too eas­ily for his sec­ond try.

The move was ex­tremely pleas­ing on the eye from a purist’s point of view, but the ease with which it was ex­e­cuted, so late in the game, took the breath away.

It’s the rea­son why New Zealand are world cham­pi­ons.

It’s the rea­son why the gap be­tween them and Wales re­mains con­sid­er­able.

Scott Wil­liams touches down for Wales’ open­ing try of the game

Rieko Ioane cel­e­brates with TJ Per­e­nara after scor­ing the All Blacks’ fifth try yes­ter­day

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