All Blacks were named World Rugby Team of the Year for the fifth successive year following the last match of the Northern Tour against Wales.

Wales 16-34 New Zealand: Beauden Barrett scores two tries as Richie McCaw celebrates his 100th cap as skipper with a win  New Zealand Rugby has paid tribute to the All Blacks after they again dominated the annual World Rugby Awards announced following the last match of the MyRepublic Northern Tour against Wales. The All Blacks were named World Rugby Team of the Year for the fifth successive year and Head Coach Steve Hansen Coach of the Year for the third straight year and Lock Brodie Retallick was named Player of the Year, the fourth All Black to win the prestigious award.

Wales reinforced their reputation as the hopeless romantics of international rugby as they flirted with victory against New Zealand before breaking 74,000 Cardiff hearts.

Leigh Halfpenny had kicked his side to the verge of history, but the All Blacks sent out a cold blooded reminder of why they are the world’s best with three tries in the closing stages to end Welsh hopes of a famous upset. It again comes round to the question of belief. Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and they have now lost 22 games in a row to the ‘big three’ of the Southern Hemisphere. It was a fitting result for Richie McCaw, who captained the All Blacks for the 100th time, but one that left Wales coach Warren Gatland again scratching his head on how to end his side’s hoodoo. ‘As a player, I remember coming through an era when Auckland, not the All Blacks, were the best team in the world and playing for Waikato it took us five years to beat them,’ said Gatland. ‘We got nearer and nearer and once we did it then it got easier the second and the third time. That is what creates composure and belief going forward.’

The final score-line was as tough on the hosts as it was inevitable.

‘They’re going to blow it, we’ve been here before,’ said one Welsh supporter as his side went into the final exchanges with a one-point lead. His wisdom proved correct but a five tries to one deficit was harsh on Gatland’s side after they went toe-to-toe for the majority of the game. ‘It’s called a Test match because it’s a test of both your physical and mental attributes,’ said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. ‘I don’t know if we were rattled but we were certainly tested.’ There were some early examinations of the All Blacks defence. Referee Wayne Barnes, who has history with New Zealand after the 2007 World Cup quarter final, penalised McCaw for having hands in the ruck and Halpenny kicked the hosts to a seventh minute lead. McCaw’s parents, Don and Margaret, were less than impressed with the decision after making the 24,000-mile roundtrip to witness their son’s milestone.

After shanking a penalty in the 20th minute, All Blacks fly half Beauden Barrett levelled the score with his second attempt three minutes later. Wales enjoyed good territory but failed to capitalise on their openings because New Zealand’s defence was too strong. A mis-firing Welsh scrum stunted their progress and Paul James was fortunate to avoid a yellow card after conceding three scrum penalties within half an hour.

Only a hearty Welsh defence kept out a New Zealand onslaught before half time but, after going into the dressing rooms at 3-3, it was not long before McCaw’s side were back deep in enemy territory.

Barrett made the initial break and it was only going to end one way when the ball eventually reached the hands of Julian Savea. The winger has drawn comparisons with Jonah Lomu and he showed his power when he crashed through the tackle of Dan Biggar to finish in the corner, before Barrett added the extras from the touchline. But the hosts were not going to lay down. Wales came flying back and within 120 seconds the scores were level again. Biggar crashed the ball into a swarm of Kiwis but it was quickly recycled to Taulupe Faletau, who set free Rhys Webb to touch down under the posts.

The Millennium Stadium was rocking. This was the first full house of the series and the game started to boil over when Webb exchanged heated words with All Blacks hooker Dane. Inspired, the hits became harder and the noise louder. Wales were suddenly breathing fire and a 51st minute penalty was converted by Halfpenny to edge his side back in front.

But this was going to be McCaw’s night. With North out cold with a head injury, the No 7 made yards down the right and Barrett put up a cross-field kick that was finished by Jerome Kaino.

It was a classic contest of wills. Halfpenny held his nerve with another penalty and Wales were back in front. But this was a position they had been in too many times before. Barrett then scored a solo try but McCaw is a man who always demands more. Kieran Reid added a chargedown try and Barrett scored his second to remind everyone why they are the best team in the world.  Via

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