Having led 19-5 at the break, Ryan Woodman’s men had to withstand a major fightback in the third quarter in which the Baby Blacks scored three tries and 22 unanswered points. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Back came Wales to create opportunities to win the game. Outside half Dan Edwards saw the wind blow a 40 metre penalty shot just wide of the mark and then Sam Scarfe had a try ruled out from a driving line-out.
While the try was correctly cancelled for a knock on, Wales had another penalty and scored from that via their Pontypool hooker. Edwards converted from the touchline and Wales got to within a point of their rivals.
Meanwhile, Japan conceded 11 tries in their 75-12 defeat to France. The French were never in trouble as they launched their bid to make it a hat-trick of titles in thrilling style.
The Scarfe try at the death ensured Wales picked up two points in Paarl and the result of the game between France and New Zealand on Thursday will be crucial to their chances of progressing into the top tier.
This is what they had to say about the defeat to New Zealand:
MARC BREEZE – forwards coach
“There was certainly no lack of effort out there, there were just a couple of missed opportunities when we had good momentum. New Zealand are an excellent and very physical team and they put the pressure back on us in the second half.
“It was good to see the boys getting back into it in the end, but we just couldn’t get over the line and there was one point in it. We have a lot of faith in these players, and they stuck to the plan in the
first-half and executed really well.
“We always knew there was going to be a reaction from New Zealand in the second half. Once we got a bit of control back into our game, we came back into it.
“We didn’t stick to what we should have been doing and put a bit of pressure on ourselves. That’s where the learnings are going to come from for us ahead of the Japan game.
We knew New Zealand had a strong scrum, but our boys worked hard in that area and the driving line-out worked well for us and provided a couple of tries. It was a first hit out in a long time for a lot of these boys and there are lots of positives to take from the performance, although the players know there are areas in which they can be better.”
SAM SCARFE – replacement hooker and try scorer
“We should have won. In the first half we played our way, played how we wanted to, and we got the points. They kicked very well in the second half and that’s what killed our game and our momentum.
“We wanted to re-set at half-time and start again. It’s a tough one to take, but we’ve just got to keep moving forward, keep our heads up and look forward to Thursday against Japan.
“We showed what sort of team we are by keeping on fighting to the very last minute. We need to get a few things right in the middle and we can go far. There is still all to play for and those two points will be vital for us.”
MORGAN MORSE – No 8 and try scorer
“That was our game to win, and we left a lot of opportunities out there. The first 10 minutes of the second half, and a little bit of indiscipline, cost us.
“Now we just need to go again. We’ve worked a lot on our set-piece, our drill was good and our mauls worked really well for us.
“Mark Jones (head coach) has added a lot of energy to our approach, and we have improved since being in camp together. It was a good feeling to get out there again because I hadn’t played for a couple of months.
“When I scored my try I just lost it for a moment. It was a great feeling, and I let my emotions show.
“They came out firing in the second half and we gave them easy territory through our ill-discipline. We need to have a look at that.
“We came back in the end, but it just wasn’t quite enough. It still gives us confidence going forward – it was a nail-biting game, and we were in it to the end.”