Ben Smith blitz gives All Blacks bronze
WORLD CUP MATCH REPORT: Departing All Black Ben Smith scored two tries late in the first half to help New Zealand win third place.
The Kiwis eventually outscored Wales 40-17 in a match that has clearly lost any significance.
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In what was the final Test for both Hansen and Wales counterpart Warren Gatland, after seven and 12 years at their respective helms, New Zealand outscored the Welsh by six tries to two.
The result means New Zealand have won 32 of their 35 meetings with Wales, last losing in 1953, while Hansen’s incredible record includes just 10 defeats in 107 Tests in charge.
Gatland, under whose charge Wales have won 85 of their 151 Tests – but have lost all 12 matches against his native New Zealand – might have joked that it would have been better to settle the play-off by a drinking game, but both teams showed intent on the pitch.
Richie Mo’unga missed an early penalty, but that was merely a blip as the All Blacks looked to run the ball at every opportunity at a packed Tokyo Stadium.
The first try came quickly, the influential Aaron Smith finding skipper Kieran Read, who offloaded to Brodie Retallick, the lock stepping inside Rhys Patchell and producing a brilliant backhanded pass to Joe Moody, the prop bounding in from 20 metres for a great front row forward’s try.
Mo’unga converted and added a second after Beauden Barrett scampered over after a neat Aaron Smith drop-off that left Wales prop Dillon Lewis prone.
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A sustained period of Welsh pressure then followed and paid off after Patchell found Hallam Amos with a long miss-pass, the fullback dummying Mo’unga and shooting over for a try.
Patchell added the conversion and then a simple penalty, but New Zealand roared back through veteran Ben Smith, the wing jinking his way through a crowded defence after good lead-up work by Read and Liam Coltman.
Smith, 33, got his double on the stroke of half-time, taking a long pass from his namesake Aaron and powerfully handing off Tomos Williams to slide into the corner.
Mo’unga added the extras to leave New Zealand in complete control at 28-10 at half-time.
The cut-and-thrust, running rugby continued in the second period, Ben Smith surging deep into Welsh territory before Sonny Bill Williams provided a perfect offload for centre partner Ryan Crotty to cross for the try.
Both sides were much different from their semifinal line-ups, Hansen having made seven changes to the team which lost 7-19 to England and Gatland nine from the side that went down 16-19 to South Africa.
One ever-present on the team list for Wales, however, has been Josh Adams, and the wing burrowed over from close range for a seventh try of the tournament to usurp Shane Williams’ Welsh record of at a World Cup.
The game became increasingly error-strewn, but Mo’unga stepped through Dan Biggar’s poor tackle for a late try, taking his personal tally to 15 points.
Man of the match: In a match flooded with emotion, the All Blacks’ departing players bid farewell in fine fashion – Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty, Matt Todd and Sonny Bill Williams all making a contribution. However, our award goes to All Black Ben Smith – one of the modern game’s great outside backs. Having been left out of the matchday 23 for the quarterfinal and semifinal, he managed 70-odd metres from his 11 runs, made three clean breaks and beat eight defenders.
Moments of the match: There were eight entertaining tries, but the Ben Smith double (33rd and 41st minutes) gave New Zealand a lead Wales was never going to close.
Villain: The brain dead ‘officials’ at World Rugby who still believe this match has any real meaning. The game should be canned. Warren Gatland’s suggestion that the game should be decided by downing some beers has far more appeal.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Moody, J Barrett, B Smith 2, Crotty, Mo’unga
Cons: Mo’unga 5
Tries: Amos, Adams
Cons: Patchell, Biggar
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Wales: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Josh Adams. 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Hadleigh Parkes.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Pascal Gaüzère (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)