New Zealand beat Wales 39-21 to win thrilling first Test in Auckland
By Paul Vinnell
Last Updated: 11/06/16 12:47pm
New Zealand held off a magnificent Wales effort to win a pulsating first Test in Auckland 39-21.
The final scoreline flattered the hosts - with 20 minutes left, Wales led the world champions 21-18 and had real hope of a historic first victory over the All Blacks.
Toby Faletau had put Wales in front early on before superb tries from Julian Savea and Waisake Naholo put the All Blacks 15-5 up.
Dan Biggar booted two penalties and then Rhys Webb went over after a brilliant Liam Williams break to give Wales an 18-15 lead at half time. But after an exchange of penalties, the All Blacks finally broke free with tries from Naholo, Kieran Read, and in the final seconds, Nathan Harris.
Aaron Cruden scored an early penalty to put the Kiwis 3-0 up, but Welsh responded with a magnificent team try. They ran it right, then span it left through the backs to No 8 Faletau, who charged over in the corner.
The Kiwis hit back with a stunning team move of their own. Naholo skinned Hallam Amos down the left and offloaded to Malakai Fekitoa, and when the hosts recycled Cruden's inch-perfect crossfield kick was collected by Savea to go over.
They followed that try with length-of-the-field beauty. Ben Smith claimed Biggar's high bomb, and beat two before feeding Cruden. He drew Amos and sent Naholo over - 15-5.
Biggar clawed back two penalties, and then Wales scored their second - and what a try it was.
Williams collected a long clearance, then broke through midfield beating, one, two, three All Blacks, then timed his pass to Webb perfectly and the scrum-half had just enough pace and power to stretch over the line.
Biggar added the extras and Wales finished a breathtaking first half 18-15 up.
Cruden and Biggar exchanged penalties early in the second half, but the All Blacks pressure was building, despite magnificent Wales defence.
Just after the hour mark, Aaron Smith took a quick tap and Naholo smashed his way through three defenders to touch down.
Five minutes later, Patrick Tuipulotu drew two defenders and put his skipper Read over to make it 32-21.
The hosts then butchered a simple try when, with three Kiwis charging towards the line with just one red shirt in front of them, Cruden passed forward to TJ Perenara.
Wales then had a try correctly ruled out by the TMO - Faletau collected Jonathan Davies' grubber and touched down but he was ahead of the kicker.
In the final seconds, the Kiwis scored in the corner through replacement Harris - and although the final margin was 18 points, that was in no way a fair reflection of a magnificent match.
The two teams will meet again in Wellington next Saturday, live on Sky Sports.