On Saturday we were treated to a test match out of the top draw. Physicality, intensity in both defence and attack, and some beautiful line running from both sides were on display. Wales put the All Blacks under pressure and spurned a few chances to take the lead. For the All Blacks, it brought a successful tour to an end with a 33-18 win. Here are 5 things we learned from the game:
Josh Navidi is the real deal
Arguably Wales’ best forward at the weekend, young Josh Navidi stood up to an imposing New Zealand back row.
He was physical, a menace at the breakdown, and bought an off the charts work rate to the table. He had been good throughout the November Internationals but you get the sense that the All Blacks game was always going to be a true test of his potential. Keeping a seasoned campaigner such as Justin Tipuric on the bench is no mean feat, and he is proving that there is life after Sam Warburton in the Welsh back row.
The All Blacks boast the 2 best finishers in world rugby
This has been knowledge for a while but on Saturday it was cemented as fact. A brace from both wingers played a pivotal role as the All Blacks put distance between themselves and Wales.
Reiko Ioane and Waisake Naholo have found themselves on the scoresheet of every game on this tour. The opportunities may have been created by their teammates, but there have been some sublime finishes which display a level of pace, skill, and athleticism that no other wingers in world rugby can match.
The mental block continues
Much has been said about Wales and their mental block when it comes to facing the All Blacks and it is really becoming a big issue for the men in red. What started off as just suspicions that were jokingly uttered by journalists in rugby circles has now built momentum and become an actual factor.
Rare missed kicks by Leigh Halfpenny, an inexplicable wilting that started at the 60th minute, and a lack of ruthlessness with a man advantage definitively put their challenge to bed. It is difficult to understand how this fell apart because all other factors were in the Welsh men’s favour.
Fatigue can’t be considered given that the season in the North has barely reached its halfway point, the team had the momentum going into the second-half, and the missed kicks were rudimentary. This mental block is now a real issue and one can’t help but feel that the Welsh need to acquire the services of a sports psychologist.
Warrenball might be a thing of the past
On Saturday we saw the Welsh play a more expansive style of rugby than we were used to. Scything linebreaks by the likes of Hallam Amos and the ball being taken right to the edge were welcome additions to the old gameplan. Given Wales’s back three options, it is a wonder this didn’t happen sooner.
Might we see Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Amos and George North finally being truly unleashed during the 2018 Six Nations?
The All Blacks scrum is truly a force to be reckoned with
They have proven their worth on this tour.
The New Zealand scrum proved a huge point by dismantling the Welsh pack. They won all of their scrums and were dominant. Mike Cron is working wonders with this pack and they are shunting opposition around with little difficulty. One can’t help but feel they are well and truly a force now.
Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala have established themselves as genuine threats to Joe Moody and Owen Franks and it is that competition that has made the All Black pack a force to be reckoned with.
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