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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'I don't like to over-run': Aaron Smith's double breaks long running drought in fashion

By Ben Smith
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith broke his try scoring drought in Cardiff with a second half double to help the visitors break away on the scoreboard with six tries in the final forty minutes.

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Wales closed the gap to 22-16 with an early Gareth Anscombe penalty in the second half but under advantage Smith burst through the line off a set-piece maul for a vintage run.

He sliced through the Welsh line past three forwards before stepping the cover defender Louis Rees-Zammit to score next to the posts.

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An inability to exit cost both teams as they capitalised on each other’s errors, after a try to Justin Tuperic the All Black halfback had his second after backing up inside a powerful carry from Ardie Savea.

“I’ve been on a bit of a try-scoring hoodoo for a couple of years,” Smith said of his dry run.

“It was nice to be able to just contribute to the performance. To have moments like that was special, I tend to always look for others in space.”

Smith said that he been more conscious of looking for the opportunity to run as the sniping from earlier in his career had become less and less visible.

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“It was something I’ve been looking at after the Rugby Championship, getting more instinctive around opportunities for me, have a go,” he said.

“I don’t like to over-run and have a crack for the sake of it. I like to keep our game smooth and attack where they are weak.

“I know I’m at my best when I’m moving the ball fast, hitting people, and our forwards tonight were really wanting the ball to dominate contact.”

The unusually warm conditions led to a lot of slippery ball early Smith said, and a few uncharacteristic knock-ons as a result.

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The All Blacks shortened up their passing to adjust to the dewey conditions and played a deliberately direct game up the middle.

“At times we were really dominant, getting around the corner and winning the collision area, getting good clean-outs,” he said.

“We were actually breaking into the 22 a lot. If we get 10 metres out, we back our big boys to get that last 10 metres. If backs see space, we want to attack, but when those boys got it right, they are pretty dominant.

“We got some nice tries in that space. Our loose forwards and locks are pretty dominant carriers. It was a bit of a big boy game tonight and we had to play that way.

“There is space around the ruck to punch through and create speed, Joe Schmidt’s been really on us in that area around trying to create opportunities through clean-out and playing at speed.”

After coming under fire for failing to convincingly win against Japan, Smith said that the team had an ‘edge’ during training this week and was notable on the pitch against Wales.

The team was ‘angry’ about the finish in Tokyo which saw Japan draw within striking distance, just four points behind, before a late Richie Mo’unga penalty goal on full-time secured a 38-31 win.

“There was a lot on the line after last week,” Smith said.

“You could feel it on Monday the tension was in the house. The edge was there, wanting to perform.

“Angry about how we went against Japan, how we finished that game.

“Even tonight we were a little bit eager, giving away penalties and let Wales back in the game.

“For us to finish strong was really nice to see, see our bench come on and dominate.

“Everything the Welsh got tonight was from our errors or mistakes and letting them into our half. You can’t do that up here, they punish you, they’re too good.

“I think since July, every game has felt like that.”

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When asked to pinpoint why the said has not been delivering the way that they would like, the 113-test veteran said that the disruptions within the All Blacks set-up this year has put pressure on the side.

“There is a bit going on, a lot of scrutiny,” he said.

“We are learning so much as a team, having to adapt weekly. If anything it will be good for us next year.

“We are chasing that consistency, I think we found a bit of gold this week with our preparation

“That preparation can’t always happen, always be that good. It’s not like we train perfectly, but when you have that mental edge and not in your gut, it’s pretty dangerous.

“If we stick to our game and nail our roles, we’re pretty good.”

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