ABs combinations the difference against Wales

23:34, Nov 25 2012
All Blacks v Wales
Tony Woodcock crosses for a copycat try of his World Cup winner.
All Blacks v Wales
Late replacement for Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden kicks a conversion.
All Blacks v Wales
The All Blacks gather round Tony Woodcock after he scored in the first half.
All Blacks v Wales
Julian Savea fends off the tackle by Wales' Alex Cuthbert.
All Blacks v Wales
Israel Dagg attempts to make a break.
All Blacks v Wales
Liam Messam crosses for the first try of the game.
All Blacks v Wales
Conrad Smith gets around the the Welsh defence.
All Blacks v Wales
Wales stares down the challenge of the All Blacks' haka.
All Blacks v Wales
Man of the match Richie McCaw powers through the Welsh defence.
All Blacks v Wales
Luke Romano touches down for a try.

Aaron Cruden was the first receiver under the spotlight, but it was Owen Franks who highlighted the biggest difference between the All Blacks and Wales at Millennium Stadium.

Liam Messam's first half try will live long in the memory and fullback Israel Dagg will be credited with the incredible footwork that created it from his 22.

But it was Franks' appearance at pivot that had most significance.

Liam Messam
BRILLIANCE: Liam Messam's opening try was a masterful team display from the All Blacks.

The sequence of numbers that ended with Messam's canter in the corner read 9-3-8-12-13-6.

A few minutes later Wales' got their best chance of the match when centre Jonathan Davies beat Luke Romano and raced clear.

The movement broke down when big loose head Paul James found himself in the backline where, unlike Franks, he clumsily fumbled the ball forward.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen clearly has a vision for 15-man rugby where numbers on backs do not restrict his players' skills.

It remains a work in progress though with sloppy ruck ball an on-going problem that again scuppered their ability to build pressure on attack.

Aaron Smith's service was sharp enough, but too often the ball was slow or bobbled from the contact area.

That's just one of the issues Hansen and his coaching staff will need to address after a messy 33-10 win over Wales, one which will unfortunately be remembered most for Andrew Hore's thuggish first half hit on lock Bradley Davies.

The physicality of this match was ferocious from both sides, but Hore overstepped the mark.

It provided a contrast to his captain Richie McCaw, who was judged man of the match.

As Davies was staggering off the All Blacks openside was running over to check on prop Paul James who was prone on a stretcher with a knee injury.

McCaw patted his opponent on the chest and shook his hand before returning to his team.

That was one of the positives for an All Blacks side that appeared to become frustrated by Wales' resistance.

Another was the play of wing Julian Savea and Dagg at fullback.

Savea's high ball technique remains a work in progress, too front on, but his running is something to behold and there were some nice touches of skill to boot.

He knocked a delicate kick in to the corner and somehow kept the ball alive for Messam's try, first with finger tip control, then by popping a one-handed pass to Cruden on the touch line.

Dagg was back to his irresistible best with ball in hand, strong in contract and elusive in space.

Cruden did a more than decent job of filling Dan Carter's shoes, banging over seven goals, but missed touch early and a tackle late in a test where the All Blacks faced a determined opponent.

Luke Romano was also a mixed bag, running a tad too high early on, but scoring a fine try running off a Savea surge.

Romano's would be the All Blacks last try of the night, but, like the first, highlighted their competitive advantage, a lock running off a wing, an element Wales did not possess.

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