Wales 25-37 New Zealand
Dan Carter broke Jonny Wilkinson’s world Test points record at the Millennium Stadium as New Zealand completed their third Grand Slam tour of Britain and Ireland in six seasons.
All Blacks fly-half Carter missed four first-half kicks, but an early long-range penalty took him past England star Wilkinson’s mark of 1,178.
Wales gave the 2011 World Cup favourites a real fright though, trailing 13-12 early in the second period after Carter’s opposite number Stephen Jones landed four penalties.
But the All Blacks displayed their renowned ruthless streak when it mattered, with Hosea Gear scoring two tries – his second when substitute Daniel Braid was in the sin-bin – while full-back Mils Muliaina, Gear’s fellow wing Isaia Toeava and substitute prop John Afoa also touched down.
Carter added three conversions and two penalties, and Jones slotted two more three-pointers, plus a conversion of full-back Lee Byrne’s well-worked late try to see him finish with 20 points.
Wales have now lost 24 successive games against New Zealand and gone seven matches without a win since beating Italy in last season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship.
They can take a degree of comfort from their fiercely-committed display, a quality they will again need in abundance when England arrive in Cardiff on February 4 for the start of the Six Nations.
Scrum-half Mike Phillips, flanker Sam Warburton and centre Tom Shanklin all delivered powerful performances, yet Wales ultimately went the same way as England, Scotland and Ireland this month, beaten comfortably by the best team on planet rugby.
Wales took the lead inside two minutes when Jones slotted a penalty after he was tackled late by Gear.
The All Blacks wing turned his ankle after landing awkwardly following the challenge, but he soon ran it off by punishing Wales with a soft fifth-minute try.
Missed tackles by Shanklin and wing George North on Toeava gifted New Zealand an opportunity, and Gear went over unopposed in the corner.
Carter missed the touchline conversion attempt, yet he found his range just four minutes later from 49 metres to overtake Wilkinson and give the visitors an 8-3 advantage.
Gear’s score served as a graphic reminder to Wales they could not afford such defensive lapses, but the lesson went unheeded.
New Zealand struck again midway through the first-half as Carter injected pace into a routine counter-attack, and Muliaina glided in from halfway, eluding half-hearted challenges from Wales flanker Dan Lydiate and his back-row colleague Ryan Jones.
Carter failed to convert – his third miss in four attempts – and that was just as well for Wales as the All Blacks built an imposing 10-point lead.
Wales showed glimpses of their renowned attacking ability, creating chances when they put width on the ball, but centre James Hook could not quite stretch over the line, knocking on under pressure from Muliaina’s tackle.
Jones cut the lead with a second penalty, and with Wales enjoying territorial dominance, New Zealand had to step up their defensive work-rate.
The visitors were not helped when their influential number eight Kieran Read limped off just before the break, and Wales maintained impressive momentum as Jones completed his penalty hat-trick.
Carter then missed another kick on the stroke of half-time, ending a fast and furious opening period that saw Wales firmly in touch despite their misfiring lineout and occasional defensive fragility.
Wales, desperate to avoid going through their four-match autumn series without a win, gained fresh impetus with the arrival of back-row substitutes Andy Powell and Jonathan Thomas after 48 minutes.
The All Blacks were rattled, confirmed by Braid – Read’s replacement – being yellow-carded for not rolling away after tackling Stephen Jones.
Jones brought Wales to within a point by booting the resulting penalty, yet it was the cue for New Zealand to step up intensity levels, and slick passing saw Gear claim his second try.
Carter added the extras and then kicked a penalty, but two more Jones penalties during a four-minute spell gave Wales renewed hope.
An upset briefly looked possible – then New Zealand emphatically snuffed out any prospect through late scores from Toeava and Afoa.
It was rough justice on Wales, and their frustration was underlined when Powell high-tackled All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw – an incident which could easily result in him being cited by match commissioner Rob Flockhart.
But they at least had the final word through Byrne’s consolation effort that Jones improved, although New Zealand once again emerged victorious and extended an unbeaten record against Wales that stretches back to 1953