Player Ratings: Top class
OPINION: The All Blacks travelled to Cardiff looking to kick off the European leg of their end-of-year tour on a positive note.
Wales entered the game with history against them – and soon the scoreboard was too, with Codie Taylor scoring from the base of the ruck to give the All Blacks an early lead. A second try from Taylor coupled with a handful of points from the boot of Richie Mo’unga saw NZ build a 17-point buffer, only for Wales to strike back late in the first half. Still, the visitors entered the break with a handy 22-13 advantage.
While both sides traded scores early in the second spell, the All Blacks eventually took control of the match, eventually securing a 55-23 win.
How did the All Blacks rate in the victory?
1. Ethan de Groot – 6/10
Safe as houses at the set-piece and didn’t shy away from hitting contact – with or without the ball. Dropped a simple pass. Got involved in a little bit of niggle. Off in 55th minute.
2. Codie Taylor – 8.5
Perhaps his best game in black since the last Rugby World Cup. Led the way defensively, hitting double figures before halftime and bowing out with 14 to his name. Grabbed the first two tries of the match – both from the base of the breakdown. Caught out once defending in close quarters, leaving a gap for Nick Tompkins to rush through. Nailed all nine off his lineout deliveries. Off in 58th minute.
3. Tyrel Lomax – 7
An always willing carrier of the ball. Won a penalty for his side at the set-piece but, like many of his teammates, was also pinged at the breakdown. Off in 58th minute.
4. Sam Whitelock – 7
Controlled the lineouts and barrelled into every ruck and maul. Forced a turnover with a nice hit on Ken Owens. Copped one harsh penalty at the breakdown and one for getting himself offside at the lineout.
5. Scott Barrett – 7
Put his head down and went about his business without getting involved in anything too glorious. Off in 69th minute.
6. Shannon Frizell – 5
Wasn’t able to assert himself with the ball in hand but was busy on defence. Dropped one kick-off, giving Wales possession inside the All Blacks’ red zone. Still doesn’t convince as the All Blacks’ first-choice blindside flanker. Off in 62nd minute.
7. Dalton Papali’i – 8
Sparked New Zealand’s first try with a great break in the midfield, bumping off two defenders and racing 20 metres up the field into the opposition 22. Always looked to contest opposition ball on the ground but didn’t have as much luck as he would have liked – though still managed to slow down the opposition ball. Topped the tackle chart for NZ with 16 to his name. A strong performance in place of the captain.
8. Ardie Savea – 9
His usual destructive self. Shut down Wales’ first and second attacking forays with some great work at the breakdown but was pinged on his third attempt. Carried strongly throughout and set up NZ’s fifth try of the afternoon with his trademark audacious dummy before scoring one of his own to cease any sort of Wales fightback.
9. Aaron Smith – 8.5
Distributed quickly and efficiently. Was a menace at scrum time, causing plenty of issues for his opposite. Scored an excellent individual try, sniping off the back of a maul. Ran a great support line off Savea to grab his double. Off in 67th minute.
10. Richie Mo’unga – 7
Kicked well throughout but primarily played a distributive role. Put in a well-placed cross-kick to Jordie Barrett to create a try. Couldn’t bring in a Tomos Williams kick over the defence, with Wales scoring from the ensuing chaos. Made up for it by chasing down Gareth Anscombe when it looked like the converted Kiwi was destined to score. Off in 69th minute.
11. Caleb Clarke – 4
Fluffed a simple catch early in the first half, handing Wales an attacking opportunity right outside the NZ 22. Defended well but didn’t get any opportunities with the ball in hand until time was almost up.
12. Jordie Barrett – 8
His momentum-generating carries were key to the All Blacks getting go-forward. Penalised for not rolling away when Wales were hot on attack. Showed off his vertical jump ability with a great reception from a Mo’unga cross-field kick to score the All Blacks’ third try of the afternoon and then touched down with five to play for NZ’s last.
13. Rieko Ioane – 4
Almost anonymous for the first three-quarters of the match before shifting to the right wing where he had a couple of good touches, including one nice break.
14. Sevu Reece – 3
Pinged once for not rolling away at the breakdown and didn’t like his three-quarters partners, rarely got his hands on the pill. Off in 58th minute.
15. Beauden Barrett – 6
Beautifully Tidied up a Wales kick through inside his 22 but was hauled out of the field by Taulupe Faletau. Shifted into No 10 towards the back-end of the match and added some zip from first-receiver, throwing the final pass for his brother’s second try.
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 7
On in 58th minute. Touched down for the All Blacks’ final score of the night and made one barnstorming run down the middle. Formed a nice one-two punch with Taylor.
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 5
On in 55th minute. Put his hand up to carry.
18. Fletcher Newell – 6
On in 58th minute. Won a penalty at his first scrum and featured a couple of times in the open field.
19. Tupou Vaa’i – N/A
On in 69th minute.
20. Akira Ioane – 6
On in 62nd minute. Added some nice vim and vigour without setting the world alight.
21. Brad Weber – 6
On in 67th minute. Noticeably a little bit tentative at the base of the ruck relative to the man he replaced but looked good when he stretched his legs.
22. David Havili – N/A
On in 69th minute.
23. Anton Lienert-Brown – 4
On in 58th minute. Didn’t get any opportunities to make an impact.
By Tom Vinicombe, @RugbyPass