All Blacks hold on to beat Wales

Waisake Naholo touches down for this first spectacular try for the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
Waisake Naholo touches down for this first spectacular try for the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks have limped across the finish line of a taxing season, seeing off a belligerent Wales 33-18 in Cardiff.

A team missing half of their first-choice lineup were outplayed for lengthy periods on Sunday morning (NZ time) but resilience in defence and more clinical finishing proved the difference as they completed their European tour with a perfect five-from-five record.

As was the case in last week's gripping win over Scotland, winger Rieko Ioane was a standout.

Having miraculously recovered from a shoulder injury at Murrayfield, the 20-year-old was involved in four of his team's five tries and scored the last two.

Those came as a relief to the tourists, who led 13-12 at halftime and entered the final 10 minutes just eight points up and missing stand-in captain Sam Whitelock, who was shown a yellow card.

Rather than succumb to the fatigue of a long season, the All Blacks finished stronger, consigning Wales to a 30th successive defeat dating back to 1953.

It left the world champions with a record of 11 wins, one draw and two losses in a year notable for the forced development of depth as injuries and unavailability struck Steve Hansen's men.

Every match in Europe proved challenging, including Saturday's fixture in front of 75,000 at Principality Stadium as Wales hogged all of the early possession.

Rieko Ioane scores the fifth try for the All Blacks at  Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Rieko Ioane scores the fifth try for the All Blacks at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
By the half-hour mark, New Zealand had made 81 tackles to Wales' 11.

Despite that, they created two tries to winger Waisake Naholo in the right-hand corner and then had too much class when the game opened up in the second spell.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny's early penalty put Wales ahead for the only time in the match before Ioane and Aaron Smith combined to put a diving Naholo over.

Starved of possession, the All Blacks chose to turn down numerous handy shots at goal in the lead-up to Naholo's second try.

Wales finished the half with a spectacular try to centre Scott Williams in his 50th Test, set up when winger Hallam Amos scythed through a rare gap in the New Zealand defensive line.

The visitors got their hands on the ball for extended periods and Ioane set up centre Anton Lienert-Brown with a half break and bounced offload.

Man of the match Ioane underlined his value with an intercept try two minutes later and then scorched through a hole with raw speed in the 73rd minute to virtually seal the result.

Earlier, Whitelock's sin-binning, following persistent All Blacks infringing on their line, opened the door for Welsh halfback Gareth Davies to score and boost local hopes of a historic result.

- By Daniel Gilhooly

 

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