But while the 27-26 defeat in Paarl was hard to take, vice-captain Dan Edwards believes the lessons learned from that contest will help the side go in search of the win they need over Japan in Round 2 to stay in contention in their pool.
A last gasp try from replacement hooker Sam Scarfe, which Edwards converted off the touchline, ensured Wales emerged with two points from the game against the Baby Blacks. Now the target is a full-house of five points against a Japanese team that conceded 11 tries in their 75-12 defeat to France.
“We have a big thing about committing to everything we do and that has brought us tighter together. You could see in the game against New Zealand that we have a real belief that we can go out and score tries,” said Ospreys outside half, Edwards.
“We felt we could roll them over, but it wasn’t meant to be in the end. Now we have a massive challenge ahead of us against Japan.
“They are fit and physical boys and they bring real line speed. We want to go out and grab five points to keep ourselves in the mix for the semi-finals.
“We knew the All Blacks would come out firing and wouldn’t go away. They were really good in the first 20 minutes of the second half, and we couldn’t find any answers.
“It was still a really good experience for us, and we hope to take learnings out of that game and take them into the game against Japan. We didn’t come out here to lose, we came to top our group.
“That’s why we will be going all out on against Japan to stay in the hunt. We’ve had a look at their game against France, although we are concentrating on ourselves and enjoying what we are doing.
“Our belief and commitment to the plan is what has really changed between now and the Six Nations. We dropped off in the last 20 minutes of the games in the Six Nations, but we showed a lot of character to hit back in the last 20 against New Zealand.
“The two points we picked up could be massive come the end of the group. We will be looking to pick up five points in our next game.”
They will have been aware that the Japanese scored two tries against France via their driving line-out, although that is a phase of play that earned Wales huge success against New Zealand. The scrum also improved from the Six Nations, but the penalty count became a problem.
“The penalty count is something we have looked at. Conceding 16 against New Zealand was disappointing, and we know that in any Test match you need to keep the tally under 10 to have a chance of winning,” said scrum half Archie Hughes.
“Even so, it showed how much potential there is in this squad that we gave away 16 penalties yet still got within two points of beating New Zealand.
“Everything happens so quickly in this tournament, and we now have to go out and try to get those five points against Japan.”