4NTV Kiwis nil Wales
05th November 2011
New Zealand up and running
New Zealand duly gained their first win of the Gillette Four Nations Series with a 36-0 triumph over Wales but they will need to find a major improvement if they are to retain their crown at Elland Road in a fortnight's time.
Winger Gerard Beale and second rower Sika Manu both scored two tries as the Kiwis overcame a gallant Wales in the opening match of today's double-header at Wembley.
It was New Zealand's seventh win in 10 meetings with the Welsh but Iestyn Harris' men emerged with considerable credit after achieving their primary aim of improving on their opening 42-4 defeat by England.
The Welsh, who had seven part-timers in their 17-man team, never looked capable of producing an upset but they played with pride and determination in a performance that mirrored their battling efforts against England seven days earlier.
The Kiwis, who were presented with their jerseys by Great Britain legend Ellery Hanley, were indebted to the half-back wizardry of skipper Benji Marshall and the tactical awareness of Wigan hooker Thomas Leuluai, who was named man of the match.
The warning signs for the Welsh were there in the opening moments when Marshall was held up over the line while dangerous right winger Beale was brought back for a forward pass by impressive full-back Kevin Locke.
The under-pressure Welsh were forced to concede four goal-line drop-outs in the first 12 minutes and were probably content to concede just two tries in that time.
Left winger Jason Nightingale profited from a kind bounce following Marshall's grubber kick to open the scoring and the talented Locke took a lovely inside pass from his captain to add the second.
A run of four consecutive penalties enabled Iestyn Harris' men to relieve the pressure and they managed to cause the Kiwi defence some problems, with winger Rhys Williams going close and centre Ian Webster able to get only one hand to the ball following Lee Briers' clever kick to the line.
Prop Jordan James, who went off after the first tackle of the England game, was able to make his presence felt, along with fellow front rowers Gil Dudson and Craig Kopczak, but the Welsh lost young second rower Tyson Frizzell with an arm injury midway through the first half and New Zealand gradually imposed themselves on the game.
Harris would have been alarmed at the way three defenders fell off Manu as he went in for his first try before doubling his tally 10 minutes before the break when Wales failed to deal with Marshall's high kick.
The Kiwi captain then showed his class with a deft pass to free Alex Glenn, who got Beale over for his side's fifth try just before the break, but it was another 20 minutes before the Welsh defence cracked again.
Kopczak, who caught the eye in defeat against England, was at the heart of a superb rearguard defensive effort but the holders emphasised their class with two further tries in the final quarter.
Nightingale was pulled back for a forward pass but Beale grabbed his second try on the hour after Leuluai's cut-out pass found him in space.
Leuluai then burst clear to get replacement Nathan Fien over for the New Zealand's seventh try, with Marshall kicking his fourth goal.