New Zealand’s players pose for a photo after winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup bronze final match between New Zealand and Wales at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on 1 November – AFP
TOKYO, AFP: Veteran winger Ben Smith scored a classy try double as New Zealand beat Wales 40-17 to clinch third spot at the Rugby World Cup on Friday in the perfect send-off for storied coach Steve Hansen.
In what was the final Test for both Hansen and Wales counterpart Warren Gatland, after seven and 12 years at their respective helms, both sides produced an entertaining encounter that saw New Zealand outscore the Welsh by six tries to two.
The result means New Zealand have won 32 of their 35 meetings with Wales, last losing in 1953, while Hansen’s incredible record includes just 10 defeats in 107 Tests in charge.
“It was just important we come back and honoured the jersey and our fans and get over the disappointment of last week,” said Hansen, referring to the semi-final defeat by England.
“Tough old game for both sides and just want to congratulate Wales too because I know they’ll be feeling a bit at the moment.” Gatland, under whose charge Wales have won 85 of their 151 Tests – but have lost all 12 matches against his native New Zealand – might have joked that it would have been better to settle the play-off by a drinking game, but both teams showed intent on the pitch. “Our boys never gave up and kept trying to play some good rugby in the second half. Probably a game too far for us really,” said the New Zealander, who will now coach the Waikato Chiefs.
“I’ve loved my time in Wales. People have been amazing and incredibly welcoming. But that era’s over now and I’m excited about the next challenge going back to New Zealand and being involved with the Chiefs.” Both sides were much different from their semi-final line-ups, Hansen having made seven changes to the team which lost 19-7 to England and Gatland nine from the side that went down 19-16 to South Africa.
One ever-present on the team list for Wales, however, has been Josh Adams, and the winger burrowed over from close range for a seventh try of the tournament to usurp Shane Williams’ Welsh record of at a World Cup.
The game became increasingly error-strewn, but Mo’unga stepped through Dan Biggar’s poor tackle for a late try, taking his personal tally to 15 points.