New Zealand beats Wales 36-22 in 2nd test to win series
Israel Dagg and Ben Smith marked their 50th test matches with tries as New Zealand beat Wales 36-22 in the second rugby test on Saturday for a winning 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Dagg and Smith were drummed into new roles in a reorganized All Blacks backline, forced by the dropping of left winger Julian Savea. Smith moved from fullback to the right wing and Dagg returned to the lineup at fullback for his first test in a year.
Dagg showed his sharpness with a 28th-minute try that gave New Zealand a 10-3 lead before Wales equalized with a try to 101-test lock Alun Wyn Jones just before halftime.
Smith then put the All Blacks ahead in the 52nd minute with a try that finally broke down Wales' gritty defense and heralded a run of three tries in seven minutes which made the game safe for New Zealand.
Smith's try was made by replacement flyhalf Beauden Barrett who scored himself two minutes later to break the tension for 36,000 New Zealand fans.
Those tries turned the tide of a tight match and Barrett was once again the catalyst for the change. He came off the bench to play on Savea's wing in the first test at Auckland, with Wales leading 18-15 at halftime, to spark the All Blacks to a 39-21 victory.
Barrett took the field earlier than intended Saturday as a replacement at flyhalf for Aaron Cruden, who was taken to hospital for X-rays on a suspected neck injury.
He quickly fitted into his regular flyhalf role on his home ground, making the outside break through the tackle of Jamie Roberts to create space which allowed Smith to step through remaining tackles to score.
Barrett then took scrumhalf Aaron Smith's flick pass, after captain Kieran Read detached from a five-meter scrum, to score and convert his own try.
Read played a similar role in a 59th-minute try for winger Waisake Naholo, breaking from a five-meter scrum and combining with Aaron Smith on the blindside who passed to the unmarked Naholo.
From 10-10 after 52 minutes, Wales was 29-10 down just before the hour mark and bewildered at how a match in which it had seemed so competitive had slipped away.
Wales had led 21-18 after 62 minutes in the first test at Auckland before weakening in the face of a tempo established by New Zealand's bench to concede three late tries.
Nor were the All Blacks finished. In the 64th minute they launched - out of nothing - a raid from their own 22 which resulted in a try to replacement flanker Ardie Savea, who started and finished the move. Dane Coles, Jerome Kaino, Ryan Crotty, with a mis-timed kick, Naholo and replacement scrumhalf T.J. Perenara were also involved before Savea finished a thrilling move with his first test try.
At that point, New Zealand had scored 26 points in 10 minutes to demonstrate again its ruthless ability to exploit any chance.
"You've got to wear a team down on some occasions," Read said. "That might take 75 minutes another week.
"Fortunately we got a few tries at the start of the second half to put ourselves ahead. Obviously you want to start as well as you can but it doesn't always happen."
Wales was always expected to fade in the second half as it struggles to play 80 minutes at the sustained pace the All Blacks enjoy. But instead Wales finished strongly and trimmed the margin with late tries to Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams.
Wales had again matched New Zealand for almost three quarters of the game only to leak four quick tries and find itself at risk of a rout. Its 63-year losing streak against New Zealand continued and the All Blacks head to the last test in Dunedin with the series already decided.
Wales had enjoyed almost 59 percent of possession when the All Blacks try-scoring spree began but wasn't as adventurous with the ball as promised. The tourists occasionally promoted the ball beyond the first receiver but rarely took on the defensive line with great zeal.
Wales scored its first try by first probing the All Blacks' defense on the right flank through Davies, then moving the ball swiftly to the left where a long pass found Wyn Jones unmarked.
Wales didn't test the defense again until the 73rd when Williams, moved from fullback to the right wing, sawed through a hole in midfield and dashed 40 meters for a try.
Davies, who was Wales' best player, then scored himself to make the winning margin the slimmest in the history of All Blacks-Wales tests in New Zealand.
"We wanted to try to throw the ball around a little bit," Wales captain Sam Warburton said. "The people of New Zealand have been fantastic over the last week as we've been around the hotel and around the streets, saying they enjoy the way we play.
"That's how we want to play, we want to throw the ball around and take some chances but it didn't work for us today."