All Blacks turn it on to trounce Wales in Cardiff
New Zealand continued their long reign of dominance over Wales by winning a one-sided Autumn Nations Series clash 55-23 in Cardiff.
The All Blacks made it 33 successive victories against their hosts, who have still not toppled New Zealand since December 1953.
Hooker Codie Taylor, scrum-half Aaron Smith and centre Jordie Barrett each scored two tries, while number eight Ardie Savea and replacement hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho also touched down as New Zealand never lost control after building an early 17-point advantage.
Fly-half Richie Mo’unga added four conversions and a penalty, and Beauden Barrett booted two conversions, with the All Blacks proving ruthless in terms of gathering points when inside Wales’ 22.
But they could never get closer than six points behind the Rugby Championship title holders, even if it was not a vintage All Blacks display.
Wales need to regroup quickly, with Argentina and Australia among their remaining autumn opponents, after another performance that prospered at times, but they had nowhere near enough quality moments.
For New Zealand, it was the most points they have scored against Wales in Cardiff, eclipsing the 54 they racked up 12 months ago.
Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny’s hopes of a Test match return 16 months after suffering major knee ligament damage were thwarted by a hamstring injury.
Smith made his 113th Test match appearance for New Zealand, moving above Dan Carter as the All Blacks’ most-capped back, while Sam Whitelock took over as captain from an injured Sam Cane.
New Zealand settled quickly under the stadium’s closed roof, and Mo’unga kicked them into a fourth-minute lead through a 40-metre penalty.
It was an unsettling opening for Wales, and New Zealand extended their lead seven minutes later when flanker Dalton Papali’i breached Wales’ front-line defence and quickly recycled possession resulted in a try for Taylor that Mo’unga converted.
Wales looked off the pace and were defensively suspect as New Zealand punished them through a second Taylor try – converted by Mo’unga – that opened up a 17-point advantage inside the opening quarter.
The home side desperately needed some inspiration, and it arrived courtesy of new cap Dyer.
Wales attacked strongly from a short-range lineout, and Dyer touched down after cutting a superb attacking angle on receipt of centre Nick Tompkins’ pass, with Anscombe’s conversion making it 17-7.
An Anscombe penalty nine minutes before half-time further cut the gap, and there were promising signs shown by Wales after being run ragged in the early stages.
But New Zealand’s ruthless edge surfaced again when they returned to Wales’ 22, as a brilliant Mo’unga cross-kick saw Jordie Barrett catch it and outjump Dyer before touching down.
Anscombe then kicked a second penalty just before the interval, as Wales went off nine points adrift when it might have been a whole lot worse, given New Zealand’s initial onslaught.
Anscombe completed his penalty hat-trick five minutes after the restart, and Wales were firmly back in contention as a third change saw Nicky Smith replace loosehead prop Gareth Thomas.
Just when questions were being asked of them, though, New Zealand hit back when livewire Smith broke clear from the base of a scrum for his team’s fourth try, and Mo’unga converted for a 29-16 lead.
But Wales displayed admirable resilience, and they chipped away at New Zealand again, this time through a Tipuric try that Anscombe converted, only for Smith to score again, with Mo’unga adding the extras to restore a 13-point gap.
Costelow made his Test match introduction 14 minutes from time, yet New Zealand had already stretched further away through Savea’s try, before Jordie Barrett’s second touchdown inched them closer to 50 points, a figure that was passed in injury time.
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