Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Gatland praises improved Wales

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland praised the character of his players after their hard-fought 29-10 loss to New Zealand in Hamilton.

Just a week after capitulating 42-9 against the same opponents in Dunedin, the tourists went the distance with the All Blacks despite visits to the sin-bin for Lee Byrne and Gavin Thomas and even scored a late try thanks to Jamie Roberts to finish their season on a more positive note.

"The pleasing thing about the performance is that the All Blacks tend to get stronger from game to game, particularly at the start of their campaigns, and these guys could have thought about getting on the plane and going on holiday for six weeks and they didn't do that," Gatland said.

"That is what I was really proud of. They showed some character out there and they wore that jersey with some real pride and as coaches that's what you're looking for."

But having seen his side keep the All Blacks to just one Cory Jane first-half try and 17 points from the boot of Daniel Carter, the New Zealander lamented the try Aaron Cruden was able to score, which was converted by Piri Weepu.

"We're pretty gutted with the last try," the Wales coach said. "We've had a couple of yellow cards, the penalty count has been quite heavy against us but I think it was a step up from last week.

"We've worked really hard on areas to stop the All Blacks counter-attack and making sure defensively we're stronger and I thought we made a big improvement in that area.

"I think if it had ended up with one try all we would have been more than happy. It's disappointing with that little kick through and Lee Byrne has fallen over and it's a soft seven-pointer at the end of the game."

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw had mixed views on the game - after being unable to cut loose like he had in Dunedin a week ago.

"It was a bit frustrating. When we did hold the ball and get down their end it was penalties we were getting," he said. "We just kept it ticking over taking three points but it would have been nice to build pressure and score tries.

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