Wales 18 lost to New Zealand 58
- Match URL
- Sunday, November 5th, 2000
- Russell Smith
- Millennium Stadium (Cardiff)
In 1995 Wales played before a packed 15,000 crowd at the Vetch Field in Swansea with a largely Welsh team. Today they entertained a 17,612 in the magnificent Welsh National Stadium in Cardiff. Whilst many will point to the significance of the empty seats perhaps they should also pause to consider the import of the fact that League was welcomed into the heart of Welsh rugby union. While the Welsh press may choose to pour scorn on league in a manner which no sport should have to endure, there are a growing number of fans across the country who recognise the merits of both codes.
I would like to ask those members of the press, Welsh or otherwise, what is so wrong about a sport looking to enhance its profile and to develop its appeal nationwide? Would they be so eager to criticise, for instance field hockey, were it to stage its games in a similar fashion? Or how about Ice-Hockey, are the Cardiff Red Devils and the Manchester Storm subject to similar press criticism? And of their editors I would like to ask why they are prepared to print the same old tired clichés about rugby league.
The New Zealand side revealed not only exactly why they are ranked second in the world but also why they are so confident that they can claim top spot from the reigning champions Australia. This was an emphatic victory against a below par Welsh team.
Despite the score line NZ coach, Frank Endacott, wasn't happy with his teams performance saying, "I was pleased with result, certainly didn't think we'd win by 40 point. But our ball control was loose and not acceptable. I'm real happy with the result but we can improve on that performance."
Welsh coach, Clive Griffiths, said, "I'm not too disappointed. It was a gutsy performance in the second half. We just gave too much ball away early on. You can't make mistakes against good sides. They finished so clinically and that really punished us."
With few union converts to bolster the Anglo-Welsh contingent it is difficult to see how this Welsh team can progress. Certainly the RL will need to do some serious development work in the valleys to restore Wales as a force in world rugby league. How they must be regretting blocking Cardiff's Superleague application. For make no mistake, the chickens came home to roost on that shocking decision this Sunday. If Wales is to have a future in rugby league then it needs a boost and it needs it urgently.
Hooker Kieron Cunningham missed the game because of an ankle injury sustained during the Lebanon game at Llanelli. Conscious that his team had already qualified for the final stages Griffiths was keen to ensure that the St Helens star remained fresh. Whether the inclusion of the fiery hooker would have had any significant impact on the final result will never be known. But the early exchanges indicated that, without his magical work around the play the ball, Wales would find it hard to make forward progress against a fired up Kiwi defence.
When Wales prop, David Whittle, failed to play the ball correctly on his own 20 metre line the writing was well and truly on the wall for his team. Mistakes like that get punished in international rugby. Sure enough Stacey Jones broke from the scrum base down the left centre channel, teasing an opening in the Welsh defence, before making a reverse pass inside to winger Vainikolo who scorched in for a fine try. Paul's conversion gave NZ a 6-0 lead after 10 minutes.
Despite some good approach work the Welsh were unable to break through some tough defence and when they did the final pass wouldn't stick. Time and again they made simple errors in their own territory.
Wales came close to scoring on 21 minutes when second rower, Justin Morgan, was tackled on the line. New Zealand responded in great style when Smith latched onto a Jones pass to break 30 metres up the middle of the park before handing on to the supporting Swain. Although Swain was collared by Sullivan inside the 20 metre mark, the ball was moved swiftly to the left and centre Talau was on hand to score out wide. Henry Paul added the extra points to make it 12-0 in favour of NZ.
Next to score was Henry Paul who made a terrific 40 metre break down the right channel, before stepping inside the fullback, Wes Davies, to score a classy try. His conversion took the score to 18-0 and effectively ended the Welsh interest in the contest.
Finally the Wales team clicked into gear. Harris collected the ball on half way and made a half break before passing on to Hefin O'Hare. O'Hare accelerated through a gap into the left centre channel before finding the supporting Anthony Sullivan with a suspiciously forward looking pass. Sullivan stepped inside the New Zealand cover and handed the ball inside to the supporting Lee Briers. Briers pace took him the remaining 20 metres for a try that raised the rafters. Harris' conversion brought the Welsh back into the contest trailing by 12.
It didn't last long though as NZ marched straight down the field to grab another try. Fullback, Richie Barnet, barging over from close range. Paul again converted and NZ led 24-6 after 35 minutes.
Right on half-time Ruben Wiki was on hand to dive on a kick-through to score New Zealand's fifth try. Paul Converted from underneath the posts to give the Kiwis an unassailable 30-6 advantage.
The second half opened with another dose of misfortune for Wales when prop forward, David Whittle, went down in a heavy tackle and had to be taken from the field on a stretcher. Whittle was taken immediately to hospital for treatment on a neck injury.
NZ left winger, Lesley Vainikolo, raced 80 metres to register his second try of the game on 51 minutes. Paul couldn't make the touchline conversion and NZ led by 34-6.
Right centre, Tonie Carroll, was the next to score; getting on the end of another smooth NZ passing movement before, easing his way through a gap to score from 10 metres out. 40-6 after 62 minutes.
A minute later Lauitiiti strode away from deep in his own half to fend of a despairing Davies tackle and score in the left corner. Paul failed to convert but Wales led by 44-6.
Another two minutes passed before Vainikolo collected a bouncing Henry Paul bomb deep in Wales' 20 metre area and fed Richie Barnett who romped under the posts. This time Paul obliged with the kick to give NZ a 50-6 lead.
Another 3 minutes passed and another try came. This time, for variety, it came from Wales. Harris created a gap for Paul Aitcheson on the 20 metre line and Aitcheson was strong enough to barge between two Kiwis to score. Harris converted to make it 12-50.
Anthony Farrell collected a freak try for Wales on 72 minutes when he pounced on a loose ball behind the New Zealand try-line. The ball having been reaped from the grasp of Iestyn Harris. Harris' conversion made it 18-50.
For a few brief minutes Wales had hit a purple patch and were throwing the ball around with heart warming abandon. Much to the delight of the Welsh crowd.
But NZ soon crashed the party and Nigel Vagana grabbed their 10th try on 76 minutes when the ball was moved smartly right following a great Richie Barnett break. The winger twisting to take the ball even as he broke crashed over the line.
A quick tap penalty on the Wales line found New Zealanders queuing up to score. As it was the ball found its way safely into the hands of left winger Vainikolo who dove into the corner for a deserved hat trick. This closed the scoring at 58-18 to New Zealand.
At the post match press conference Clive Griffiths confirmed that Bridgend had agreed to release centre, John Devereaux, to play in the world cup. Devereaux is now a part of the Welsh squad and is expected to figure in the quarterfinals. Swansea declined a similar request for Paul Moriarty. This perhaps highlights the decline of the Welsh team more than words can explain.
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Contributions: Cymru RL
Last modified: Tue, 27 Oct 2020 02:29:06 +1100 (Sydney time)