Pass and catch. The two most basic skills of rugby.
Two skills that seemed to elude Wales as they slumped to their sixth loss in a row, succumbing 33-10 to a clinical All Blacks team.
It was these basic skills that really were the difference between the two teams, as Wales lacked the ability to hold onto the ball for any length of time. Poor handling, inaccurate kicking and the inability to manipulate numbers effectively ensured Wales were chasing the game after securing enough possession and territory to threaten in the first half.
In contrast, the All Blacks were able to make the most of their opportunities, creating something from nothing and taking the sting out of the Welsh challenge. Chances were few in this game, as Wales did a good job of defending from set play, but the All Blacks continued to persist and were dangerous on the counter where they always had their opposition on the ropes.
They shot out to a 23-0 lead in the first half, effectively taking the game away from Wales. A physical first 20 saw them kick three penalties and gain a lead, whilst the second 20 saw them begin to fire and score two outstanding tries.
But we can talk about the great start, the lethal counterattack, the dominant scrum and the steely defence of the All Blacks all we want. What will remain the talking point of the game was a moment that occurred in the first minute, when Andrew Hore took out Welsh lock Bradley Davies in what was the most recent in a long series of cheap shots in recent times.
The act was one that will be condemned by the New Zealand public as it wasn’t dissimilar to what has been dished out to the All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw in recent years. It can be expected it will also be condemned by the IRB, who will once again be put under the spotlight as they set to hand out what they deem an appropriate punishment. The inconsistencies in these decisions over the past 12 months have been a key theme, making it hard to predict what sort of ban Hore will receive.
But, back to the game. The All Blacks were met by a physical Welsh team who were up for the challenge, and the physicality was soon made clear as Wales's players began dropping like flies, losing three men before the break. They were passionate as always and, even after trailing 33-0, were able to fight back and score two tries in the final 20 minutes.
They looked to bomb the All Blacks' back three early, targeting the dangerous Julian Savea—who looked shaky. But you kick back to the All Blacks at your peril, and so it was, as Savea tapped back to Israel Dagg who broke four tackles and made the break which led to a brilliant try in the opposite corner to Liam Messam.
From there on, the All Blacks began to look more polished as the back three looked lively on the counterattack whilst the midfield, too, looked dangerous running. With ball in hand, they didn’t play an overly expansive game, often looking to kick in behind the Welsh backline and chasing hard to pin them inside their own 22.
The second half saw them forced to defend for lengthy periods of time as they struggled to control the ball as they had in the first half. But they did so well, withstanding several waves of attack before finally being pushed over by a 13-man drive.
The pick of the All Blacks' forwards was once again Richie McCaw, who was outstanding on defence and covered for others' mistakes on multiple occasions. Liam Messam, too, had a strong game, being physical on defence and running the ball well. Both locks were busy, whilst the front row was dominant at scrum time.
In the backs, Aaron Cruden kicked well whilst Conrad Smith was every bit as good as McCaw, tidying up a lot of ball and was safe on defence. Julian Savea was dangerous running, whilst Israel Dagg too showed himself to be lethal in space.