Player Ratings: Mission impossible
OPINION: Depleted Wales faced a Herculean task as they tackled New Zealand in their Nations Series opener at a sold-out Principality Stadium.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac was without 20 players – including a number of British and Irish Lions – due to injuries, illness and Premiership-based personnel not being released by their clubs as the game fell outside World Rugby’s international window.
Flyhalf half Gareth Anscombe returned to Test rugby following an absence of more than two years after being sidelined by a major knee injury, while skipper Alun Wyn Jones won his 149th cap, overtaking New Zealander Richie McCaw’s record for one country.
The All Blacks, unbeaten since 1953 against Wales, saw flyhalf Beauden Barrett reach a century of Test match appearances.
Wales’ performance was full of heart but by the end, the All Blacks were putting on a clinic.
Ian Cameron rated the Wales players
15 JOHNNY MCNICHOLL – 6.5
The Christchurch native looked for cracks in the New Zealand defence but struggled to find them. The All Blacks were scintillating in counter-attack, and while you couldn’t fault McNicholl and co’s effort, as a unit they’re were overmatched.
14 OWEN LANE – 5.5
A crowd-pleasing run up the flank in the first half promised much, but the powerful winger largely stayed in lane. His failure to deal with a chip in behind triggered a Key Stone Cops moment in defence, with the Welsh cover literally tripping over each other in a vain attempt to deflect what was the game-deciding try.
13 JONATHAN DAVIES – 6
Relentless in his effort on both sides of the ball, even if his 33-year-old body doesn’t quite have the blockbusting abilities of old.
12 JOHNNY WILLIAMS – 6
Lienert Brown and co were all over him early doors, with the Scarlet getting caught man and ball on several occasions thanks to at times telegraphed set plays from the men in red. Took his try brilliantly, a score that threw the hosts a much-needed lifeline, even if it was quickly snuffed out.
11 JOSH ADAMS – 6
The British & Irish Lions tourist was clearly eager to impose himself on the game and at times looked like he was close to boiling point.
10 GARETH ANSCOMBE – 5
Throwing an intercept to Beauden Barrett was the worst possible start for Anscombe, possible justifying fears that his return to Test rugby might have been rushed. He wasn’t his only error but to his credit, he didn’t totally self-combust. Priestland replaced him in the 46th minute, although whether that was a player welfare decision or shepherd’s crook, or a bit of both, was unclear.
9 TOMOS WILLIAMS – 8
Kicked exceptionally well from the base, testing the New Zealander’s fielding abilities and keeping their three-quarter line honest. The odd missed tackle blotted the copybook but he was Wales’ standout player.
8 AARON WAINWRIGHT – 7
Another bright spark in the Welsh back row and one of the few to boast a decent metreage in the first half.
7 TAINE BASHAM – 8
Was up for the fight as one of Wales’ key carriers, with both sides breaking the gain line during fierce early exchanges. His pilfering was first class and was one of a handful of players that could make a claim to have bested his opposite number on the day.
6 ROSS MORIARTY – 6
As ever, a willing combatant but was forced off with what was either a broken collar bone or dislocated shoulder.
5 ALUN WYN JONES (Captain) – NA
Sadly removed from the action with what looked like a recurrence of the shoulder injury sustained against Japan in the summer.
4 ADAM BEARD – 5
Part of a malfunctioning Welsh lineout, which at times lapsed into complete failure and will be a major work on for Wales this week. An excellent technician but was found wanting when going toe-to-toe with the Retallick and Whitelock.
3 TOMAS FRANCIS – 6
The big prop fizzed with energy in the loose but the All Blacks scrum refused to yield to giant Welshman.
2 RYAN ELIAS – 5
His lineout throwing wasn’t good enough and one of a number of players who fell off tackles as the All Blacks cranked up the physicality. Stayed in the fight though and kept on presenting himself for work even with the game ebbing away from Wales.
1 WYN JONES – 6
Europe’s form loosehead initially struggled to gain the upper hand at set-piece and was kept relatively quiet in the loose.
REPLACEMENTS – 6
Will Rowland maybe struggled with the pace of the game, while Rhys Carre impressed at tighthead when he came on. Wales also improved with Rhys Preistland behind the steering wheel before the late NZ onslaught.
By Ian Cameron, Rugbypass