New Zealand 40-17 Wales: All Blacks claim Rugby World Cup bronze in Tokyo
Warren Gatland's final game in charge of Wales ends in defeat
By Michael Cantillon at Tokyo Stadium
Last Updated: 01/11/19 4:00pm
A six-try performance from the All Blacks ensured they claimed the spoils in Friday's Rugby World Cup bronze medal match, beating Wales 40-17 in Steve Hansen's and Warren Gatland's final Test in charge.
Prop Joe Moody, full-back Beauden Barrett, wing Ben Smith (two), centre Ryan Crotty and fly-half Richie Mo'unga each got on the scoresheet for New Zealand, while Mo'unga added five conversions at a chilly Tokyo Stadium.
Wales notched two tries themselves as full-back Hallam Amos scored, while World Cup leading try-scorer Josh Adams registered his seventh of the tournament - making history as the first Welshman to do so.
The World Cup final in Japan between England and South Africa takes place on Saturday, kicking off at 9am (GMT) at Stadium Yokohama.
The All Blacks should have hit the front as early as the fourth minute after Wales prop Nicky Smith was penalised for failing to roll away on his own 22, but Mo'unga produced a terrible miss off the tee when he struck the post.
Within seconds New Zealand were over for a try though, running Wales' clearance kick back before Mo'unga and Kieran Read offloads set lock Brodie Retallick through the line. He offloaded to prop Moody in support, with the loosehead displaying deceptive pace to reach the try-line ahead of the covering Amos.
On 14 minutes, the All Blacks doubled their lead to 14-0 when full-back Beauden Barrett cut against the grain to sprint over after a beautifully disguised switch pass from scrum-half Aaron Smith.
Wales responded well to that second blow, however, and three minutes later were extremely close to a try in response - Kiwi centre Sonny Bill Williams somehow holding up a close-range Dillon Lewis charge over the line.
The All Blacks were caught offside in the lead-up to that chance though, and when Patchell kicked to the corner again, Wales built through 14 phases before Amos ran outside of Ben Smith and then dummied to go past a stranded Mo'unga and dive over.
A Scott Barrett penalty allowed Wales a quick return to New Zealand's 22, and when Moody was penalised for going off feet, Patchell stepped up to slot through a close-range penalty, bringing the game to 14-10.
Despite Wales continuing to put on pressure, it was New Zealand who would score next on 33 minutes as wing Smith skipped and slalomed his way past five Wales shirts in the 22 before grounding behind his head - Williams counter-rucking initially to win the ball back for the All Blacks.
And then with the clock red at the end of the first half, New Zealand blew the Test out as Smith had too much pace for scrum-half Williams down the right after a sensational long left-hand pass from his own scrum-half, going over for his second and the All Blacks' fourth. It left the score a daunting 28-10 at the break.
Two minutes into the second half, New Zealand had a fifth try as a Read lineout steal, Smith bust and magnificent Williams offload all set in motion a flowing move for centre Crotty to sear through and over.
Smith thought he had his hat-trick score shortly with a stunning finish after following another sumptuous Williams offload, but referee Wayne Barnes ruled the try out in consultation with his TMO, deducing Rieko Ioane had just knocked the ball on before it reached the winger.
As it was, Wales were next to score on the hour mark as Adams stooped low to ground on top of the try-line, making history for Wales as the first player ever to score seven in a single World Cup - surpassing Shane Williams' efforts from the 2007 tournament in France.
The All Blacks would have the final say in Tokyo, however, as after a series of powerful scrum drives, the ball was released for Mo'unga to step and arc round Dan Biggar before sliding over.
If anything, this Test illustrated the incredible strength in depth New Zealand have at their disposal.
None of Ben Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty or Sam Cane were involved from the start against England in the semi-finals - yet they were some of the most impressive performers here.
Wales couldn't handle Williams' famed offloading ability, while he also earned possession back ahead of Smith's first score, and denied Wales a certain try at the other end through incredible defence. The finishing ability of wing Smith was also sublime, as he glided past players with apparent ease.
A note for Wales' Adams - a history maker and record-breaker in Tokyo. Less than two years ago he was uncapped and out of the frame playing for Worcester in the Premiership. Now, he's Wales' best ever performer in terms of World Cup tries at a single tournament and only three men - Jonah Lomu, Bryan Habana, Julian Savea (all eight) - have ever notched more. Phenomenal.
7 - Josh Adams has scored 7 tries at #RWC2019, the most by a @WelshRugbyUnion player in an edition of the tournament, surpassing @ShaneWilliams11's tally of 6 in 2007; only three players from any nation have scored more at a @rugbyworldcup (Lomu, Habana, Savea). Heaven.#NZLvWAL pic.twitter.com/c6AH1cKIQ8— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) November 1, 2019
And lastly, a word for departing All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. The 60-year-old has taken charge of his final New Zealand Test after a remarkable 16 years on the coaching ticket - eight years as assistant (2004-11), eight years as head coach (2012-19). He lost composure for a moment in his post-match interview and why wouldn't he? It's been his life.
2019 wasn't to be the All Blacks' year, but what a servant Hansen has been.
Wales made a lot of changes before this one - nine in all - many injury-enforced, while they also had just a five-day turnaround. Understandably, they were under-charged.
Even still, they had positive moments as a more open, expansive style of play saw them throw 17 offloads - if only they'd attempted a similar game-plan in last week's semi-final with South Africa, they might be suiting up for a final.
Wales lost concentration at crucial moments though - on the cusp of half-time and in possession of the ball, Ken Owens flew in off his feet, giving away a penalty. New Zealand went on to score a try in the final seconds, taking the game completely away with them. Lost lineouts and scrum domination did for Warren Gatland's charges too.
One bone of contention with the officials - just prior to All Black Williams' second-half substitution, the imposing centre caught Wales' Elliot Dee high after the ball had gone - and it was briefly replayed on screens in the stadium. What was TMO Marius Jonker doing not to intervene at that point? It looked at least a yellow card.
In 2019, the fact seemingly clear incidents are still getting missed is a major worry. Here's hoping a refereeing decision - or non-decision - doesn't decide the World Cup final on Saturday.
Stat of the Test
New Zealand have now beaten Wales in an astonishing 31 consecutive Tests, stretching back to 1963...
Tweets of the Day
127 - Kieran Read has won his 127th and final cap for the @AllBlacks, taking him into the top 10 most capped players in Test history (level with V Matfield in 10th), it was a 52nd game as skipper of the side, managing an 83% win rate as captain. Farewell. pic.twitter.com/4iVQ1t0Ori— OptaJason (@OptaJason) November 1, 2019