Brodie Retallick All Blacks v Wales: Departing greats enjoy their final flourish on the World Cup stage

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Brodie Retallick All Black Ben Smith powers over for the first of his two first-half tries against Wales at Tokyo Stadium.

STU FORSTER/GETTY IMAGES

All Black Ben Smith powers over for the first of his two first-half tries against Wales at Tokyo Stadium.

OPINION:For something that meant so little, this bronze medal Rugby World Cup playoff match won by the All Blacks in a canter sure felt like so much.

The All Blacks played like All Blacks again, sauntering to a 40-17 victory over an outmatched Wales, and in the process allowing some pretty special men to sign off some pretty iconic careers on the positive note they deserved. Skipper Kieran Read and fellow last-test All Blacks Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams illuminated the occasion superbly. As finishing flourishes went, this was a ripper. So too for substitute loosie Matt Todd, head coach Steve Hansen and forwards guru Mike Cron. They all walk away winners as well as grinners. For this night anyway.

It was all too little, too late – granted – but after a week of tears, jeers and a fair bit of soul-searching, the one-time best rugby team on the planet reminded themselves, and the watching world, that they can still uncork some champagne rugby when they get things right.

And though it meant not a lot in the great scheme of things, you know it meant so much to the men taking their final bows on the green sward of Tokyo Stadium on a fine but breezy evening in the great metropolis.

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Yes, it was the match no one wants to play in, but all week the All Blacks made it clear it was a contest they were desperate to get right. They did not want the last memory o

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