Wales produced an scintillating first half performance at Eden Park before eventually being overpowered by the hosts in their first match of the three-test series.
Superb tries from Taulupe Faletau and Rhys Webb saw Wales lead at half-time, but true to form, the All Blacks came out firing after the interval, scoring three tries and restricting the visitors to just three points.
I have to say, it was edge-of-the-seat viewing. I dared believe Wales were about to make history. The unity and hunger was evident.
The All Blacks are able to see out a game like no other sporting team on the planet. They truly play for 80 minutes. They are relentless. Their final try was beyond full time, when victory was already certain. That kind of ruthlessness is what makes them so dangerous to play against.
I felt Wales struggled to maintain momentum following the introduction of the replacements around 65 minutes, and we were largely restricted to defending. Too many errors crept in, and the All Blacks will always punish mistakes. I was particularly disappointed with the number of line-out errors we made in the closing stages.
George North had a big game, continuing his Six Nations form, but picked up a hamstring injury late on which could rule him out for the remaining fixtures. He’s due to be assessed on the injury today, and I hope he pulls through because he was back to his destructive best yesterday. Liam Williams was also prominent, bursting through mid-field to set up Rhys Webb’s stunning try – the scrum-half also having a brilliant day at the office.
I still believe we have the fitness and fire-power in this Wales team to take a scalp on this tour. The substitutions were tactical but I’m not sure the personnel were correct on this occasion. Next week Luke Charteris is tipped to return to the starting XV, a move which would strengthen our line-out play.
Next up, though, is the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton. I love these mid-week tour matches! The Chiefs are absolutely on fire in the Super Rugby tournament, and this should be a cracking game.
One final note – Wales beat Slovakia in their first ever match at the Euros 2016! Well done lads, superb!