New Zealand 36 - 22 Wales: Warren Gatland hails Welsh grit

Liam Williams crashes through Waisake Naholos tackle. Picture: Getty Images
Liam Williams crashes through Waisake Naholos tackle. Picture: Getty Images
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Head coach Warren Gatland hailed the never-say-die attitude of his Wales side after witnessing their 36-22 defeat to New Zealand.

The All Blacks wrapped up the three-Test series with a game to spare by winning in Wellington.

Much like last week, Wales were well in the contest at half-time. New Zealand struck through Israel Dagg after Dan Biggar had landed a penalty to put them in front then Alun Wyn Jones dotted down at the corner on the stroke of half-time, Biggar converting from the touchline to level the scores at 10-10 at the break.

But the world champions went on to score 26 unanswered points, Ben Smith breaking clear to kick off the try-scoring before Beauden Barrett, Waisake Naholo and Ardie Savea crossed.

Liam Williams broke clear to score from 50 metres to spark a late fightback, but by the time Jonathan Davies had used all his strength to barge over, it was too little, too late.

Gatland was, however, proud of the way Wales fought to the last. “The courage to keep playing and not to give up is a huge tick,” he said. “We had 58 per cent territory and possession tonight and that’s a massive number against the All Blacks – we’ve never done that before.

“I’m pretty proud about that performance. There were a couple of key moments which were the difference.

“They are clinical and those are the small margins that we need to be better at. It’s about freshening them up this week and having a real crack in Dunedin.

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves this week. We’ll be thinking that we can get better again next week.

“The big thing for us is continuing to compete against the best team in the world. We’ll learn a huge amount from this series. They tried to create some tempo in the last 20 minutes, but we were the ones who kept playing.”

Gatland handed Rhys Patchell a first test start and the Kiwi coach was happy with his performance at No.15.

He said: “I was pleased with the way Rhys went. There were a couple of things defensively that he can work on. He showed some nice pace in that wide channel.”

new zealand: Tries: Dagg, B Smith, Barrett, Naholo, Savea. Cons: Cruden, Barrett 3. Pen: Cruden.

wales: Tries: Jones, L Williams, J Davies. Cons: Biggar 2. Pen: Biggar.

new zealand: Dagg; B Smith, Fekitoa (Tamanivalu), Crotty, Naholo; Cruden (Barrett), A Smith (Perenara); Moody (Crickett), Coles (Harris), Franks (Faumuina), Retallick (Tuipulotu), Whitelock, Kaino, Cane (Savea), Read.

wales: Patchell; L Williams, J Davies, Roberts (S Williams), Amos; Biggar (Priestland), Webb (G Davies); G Jenkins (Evans), Owens (Baldwin), Lee (Francis), Charteris (B Davies), Jones, Moriarty, Warburton (E Jenkins), Faletau.

REFEREE: J Peyper (South Africa)