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Warren Gatland’s final game as Wales head coach ended in defeat as New Zealand emphatically won the World Cup bronze medal at Tokyo Stadium.
The All Blacks’ 40-17 triumph consigned Wales to a fourth place finish for the second time in three World Cup campaigns under Gatland.
It also extended New Zealand’s winning run against Wales to 31 Tests, having not lost in the fixture since 1953.
Gatland’s 12-year reign, highlighted by four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances, could not find a fairytale finish.
New Zealand had the game sewn up by half-time through wing Ben Smith’s try double, plus touchdowns for prop Joe Moody and full-back Beauden Barrett, with fly-half Richie Mo’unga kicking four conversions.
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Wales countered through Hallam Amos’ clever try and five points from Rhys Patchell, but centre Ryan Crotty’s try and another Mo’unga conversion early in the second-half finished them off before Mo’unga added a late touchdown.
Wing Josh Adams scored a second Wales try, though, giving him seven in the tournament and breaking Shane Williams’ Wales record for one World Cup campaign that he set 12 years ago.
Dan Biggar converted, leaving an under-strength Wales to take considerable comfort from a battling display that augers well for their future under Gatland’s successor Wayne Pivac.
Gatland made nine changes for his final game in charge, with injuries sidelining players like Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Aaron Wainwright, while wing Owen Lane made a World Cup debut, lock Adam Beard also started, and trojan Alun Wyn Jones continued his role as captain.
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen, who is also standing down after the tournament, included the likes of centre Sonny Bill Williams, wing Rieko Ioane and flanker Sam Cane.
The Wales players did not follow England’s example in the semi-final last weekend of encroaching over the halfway line while New Zealand performed their pre-match Haka.
They faced it in regulation fashion standing on their own 10-metre line, but Wales were soon back-pedalling under pressure before Mo’unga hit the post with a straightforward penalty chance.
But the All Blacks struck after five minutes following a charge by lock Brodie Retallick that ended with Moody touching down and Mo’unga converting for a 7-0 lead.
Wales showed some promising glimpses, with wing Adams prominent in attack, but New Zealand cut them open again in the 12th minute when scrum-half Aaron Smith broke sharply and found try-scorer Barrett.
Mo’unga again converted, and Wales were already hugely up against it, trailing by 14 points.
Wales then sacrificed two kickable penalties, and their forwards went close to breaching New Zealand’s defence before Amos applied a neat finish, claiming a try that Patchell converted.
Wales continued to attack with freedom, and Patchell kicked a 27th-minute penalty that made it 14-10.
Wales’ response to two early setbacks had been outstanding, and another pinpoint Patchell touch-finder took them back inside New Zealand’s 22.
Both sides looked to attack at every opportunity, and New Zealand struck next when Smith worked his way over for a try, again converted by Mo’unga.
Wales continued to have plenty of possession, yet New Zealand finished the half well on top.
Smith sprinted over for a second try in five minutes, and another Mo’unga conversion made it 28-10 at the interval.
New Zealand had gone up a gear, and their fifth try arrived just two minutes into the second period, with Crotty crashing over and Mo’unga converting.
It looked like being a long second-half for Wales, and Gatland began making changes, with half-backs Biggar and Gareth Davies both going on.
New Zealand had the game done and dusted, though, to at least gain something tangible from a World Cup campaign that saw England end their hopes of a world title hat-trick.
An emotional Warren Gatland
Bronze medal presentation
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont hands out the Bronze medals to the New Zealand squad. Ben Smith, off to start a new life in France – he is joining Pau after the tournament – takes his kids up to the podium.
‘We wanted to go out with a bang’
Full-time: New Zealand 40 Wales 17
Wales’ first-phase attack breaks down in midfield and New Zealand counter! J Barrett carries up to halfway and he had an opportune moment to find his brother, who was in acres of space, but he was a bit greedy. He takes contact and eventually does offload to his brother. He finds Lienert-Brown, who loses his shorts, before the ball is knocked on in the final offload.
That is that. A fair scoreline, and a disappointing end for Warren Gatland.
79 min: New Zealand 40 Wales 17
Wales attack on halfway, before Biggar sends Amos away down the left.
B smith is guilty of a high tackle, however, so Biggar nudges Wales into the New Zealand 22 as they look for a consolation. The clock is almost in the red.
77 min: MISSED CONVERSION MO’UNGA New Zealand 40 Wales 17
That one was really tough, and it just glides wide.
Retallick has been named as man of the match.
75 min: TRY MO’UNGA New Zealand 40 Wales 17
Atop, top finish from Mo’unga, following a gorgeous pass from Weber under pressure.
The Wales scrum was shunted backwards – there was a penalty advantage – before one pass to Mo’unga. That’s all he needed as he jinked his way through down the blindside into the corner.
73 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 17
Wales are penalised for offside so New Zealand can clear with ease.
They run a nifty blindside move off their own lineout, with Weber kicking long. Adams gets back to sweep up, but the chase is strong from New Zealand so Wales are forced to kick.
J Barrett returns the clearance up to the Wales 10-metre line as New Zealand look to attack.
Read is involved to stunning effect with some ball handling before Mo’unga breaks clear. He chips over the Welsh defence but Lane gets back to clean up.
He has to dot down behind his own line, however, and the All Blacks will have a five-metre scrum.
70 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 17
Wales’ lineout is scrappy but they just about hold onto possession, with Dee clearing up. He’s been strong since coming on.
Wales look to build the phases again but progress is minimal. J Davies grubbers into in-goal for Adams to chase, but Barrett gets there well before the Wales wing to shepherd the ball into touch in-goal.
New Zealand have chosen the scrum on their own 22.
68 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 17
New Zealand’s lineout is sloppy again – that is the one blot on Coltman’s copy book – and Davies box-kicks clear.
But Wales win the ball back, Lane rising high. Wales are well into the New Zealand half before the All Blacks are penalised for offside. Biggar gives his team a lineout 10 metres out.
Seven breakdown penalties conceded by Wales today, by the way. You don’t need me to tell you that’s too many.
65 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 17
Parkes carries well off the base of the scrum before G Davies clears. J Barrett is caught out by Davies’ clearance, however, as his foot was on the line. Wales get the lineout on the New Zealand 10-metre line, but Coltman wins a holding-on penalty. He’s been superb since coming on. Barrett puts New Zealand into Wales territory.
62 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 17
JBarrett catches his brother’s restart and Wales are immediately back under the cosh.
But Read’s quick pass to Barrett is too quick, and he cannot control. He knocks on, and Wales survive.
They will put into the scrum just outside their own 22.
60 min: CONVERSION BIGGAR New Zealand 35 Wales 17
There’s a long way to go for Wales, but that’s a start. Still plenty of time.
59 min: TRY ADAMS New Zealand 35 Wales 15
Adams pops up at the base of a ruck, after G Davies had a go from a metre out, and referee Barnes adjudges that the ball touches the line.
58 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 10
There have been a raft of changes, incidentally. Crotty, Sonny Bill, Alun Wyn Jones, all off. All appearing at a World Cup for probably the final time.
Wales win the scrum but G Davies is caught at the base. They regroup well, however, and look the forwards for some momentum.
It’s pick-and-go time for Wales, and their patience is once again admirable. Lewis carries magnificently from a standing start to get Wales to within five metres.
Dee thunders in, before the backs have a go. Biggar offloads to Watkin who gets to within a metre.
55 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 10
Shingler and Dee carry hard for Wales, so too J Davies, as Wales look to attack from within their own half.
But Wales break away through Tipuric! He carries from 22 to 22, before the two Davies’ combine to send Lane through a half-gap. Shingler carries well down the tramline but Mo’unga brings him down well.
This is 15 phases now from 22 to 22. And S Barrett is penalised for a high shot.
Wales will have the scrum, centre field, inside the New Zealand 22. This is a key moment.
52 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 10
New Zealand build an attack just inside the Wales half, but Wales’ defence stands firm.
Wales are pinged for playing the 9, however, and New Zealand go quickly! The two Smiths combine to take the All Blacks into the Wales 22 but Shingler turns them over and Wales clear.
49 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 10
Wales clear as far as B Barrett following a punch carry from Watkin.
Barrett kicks back down to Wales, and Amos returns in kind.
But Amos’ clearing kick went straight into touch after having been taken back.
New Zealand can’t secure their own lineout, however, so Wales will have another chance to clear.
Crotty’s second-half score
47 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 10
New Zealand attack from their lineout on the Wales 10-metre line. Read carries well, before B Barrett recovers from a fumble. Retallick runs a great out-to-in line off Mo’unga as New Zealand build.
Sonny Bill flies through on the inside shoulder, he looks to offload to Ioane, but the wing can’t collect.
B Smith tidies up, however, and gets over the line to touch down.
The try is given, but the TMO rules that the ball went forward to Smith off Ioane’s hand.
A let-off for Wales. They will have a five-metre scrum.
45 min: New Zealand 35 Wales 10
Wales look to attack around halfway, but they can’t find a way through this New Zealand defence. And, to make matters worse, Patchell has taken a knock so they are playing without a 10.
J Davies does find Tipuric in some space on the wing, and the flanker chips down towards the All Black 22.
But what a pick-up from Barrett in clearing up the kick. He then streaks up the touchline to halfway, before feeding B Smith inside.
But Wales turn the ball over, before J Davies chips down the touchline. Barrett clears up well as Wales are penalised for not rolling away.
43 min: CONVERSION MO’UNGA New Zealand 35 Wales 10
Mo’unga looks more comfortable now
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