Wales 12 New Zealand 19
Wales failed to end their painful run of defeats against New Zealand as Dan Carter masterminded another All Blacks success at the Millennium Stadium.
Fly-half superstar Carter, troubled by a calf muscle injury all week, kicked four penalties and converted hooker Andrew Hore’s 56th-minute try.
If left Wales, who were level 6-6 at the break, still without a win at New Zealand’s expense since 1953 – despite four Stephen Jones penalties.
Carter is the player who continues to torment them like no other, taking his personal points tally against Wales to 106.
He is also now just two points short of setting a new All Blacks Test record of 968, overtaking his illustrious predecessor Andrew Mehrtens.
Carter left the pitch, though, with boos ringing in his ears after a high tackle on Wales scrum-half Martin Roberts that could yet attract the attention of the match citing commissioner.
Wales saw all their early promise evaporate, and not even a late run by outstanding lock Alun-Wyn Jones from inside his own half produced the try they desperately needed.
The home side were ultimately engulfed by an enormous All Blacks defensive blanket – and when Wales ran out of attacking ideas, Carter and company simply eased through the gears.
Wales repeatedly looked to release their dangerous backs, yet clear-cut scoring opportunities proved at a premium.
New Zealand absorbed what Wales threw at them – and then went for the jugular, underlined by Hore’s touchdown after an immense forward drive.
Wales now move on to face Samoa, Argentina and then Australia during the next three weeks.
But the scalp they wanted above all others has once again eluded them.
Coach Warren Gatland will be frustrated that his team did not turn territory into points, a crucial failing that continues to haunt them against the southern-hemisphere super-powers.
The haka produced sporting theatre in last year’s fixture when the Wales players met the All Blacks challenge by standing their ground for almost two minutes.
While there was no repeat this time – a damp squib in comparison – Wales made their presence felt by running early possession freely at the All Blacks as they dominated territory.
Wing Leigh Halfpenny sent a seventh-minute penalty narrowly wide from 45 metres. But that was the cue for New Zealand to stir, and Carter put them in front with his first penalty chance.
Jones then booted an equalising penalty as a breathless opening quarter drew to its close with Wales still hell-bent on spinning the ball wide at every opportunity.
Wales had a fortunate escape after 22 minutes when Halfpenny was snared trying to run out of defence, and the New Zealand forwards rumbled him back over his own line.
Scrum-half Brendon Leonard looked to have touched down, but referee Craig Joubert ruled a knock-on after consultation with English television match official Graham Hughes.
Joubert awarded New Zealand a penalty, though, that Carter landed; yet Wales were soon back on the offensive as Jamie Roberts smashed through a first wave of All Blacks tacklers.
The game ripped along at a frantic pace. Bet Wales could not find a final telling blow in attack, and a growing number of penalties began going New Zealand’s way.
With Carter mixing his kicking game expertly, New Zealand looked as though they were over the worst – while also beginning to boss the critical breakdown area through irrepressible captain Richie McCaw.
But Jones slotted his second penalty six minutes before the break, ending the scoring after a pulsating half.
From a Welsh perspective, though, the second period was a non-event as a third Carter penalty and try by Hore left Wales reeling.
Much of the snap disappeared from Wales’ game, and New Zealand did not require a second invitation to take charge.
Despite some occasional attacking glimpses from Wales in the dying minutes, the All Blacks had done enough – setting themselves up for an all-conquering march through Europe with Italy, England and France now on their November agenda.