Jones: All Blacks ahead of the game
Wales star Alun-Wyn Jones believes New Zealand are "probably 20 minutes ahead of everybody else" after signing off in Europe before next year's world title defence by serving emphatic notice that they remain a class apart.
For 69 minutes of a pulsating Millennium Stadium contest, Wales dared to dream.
Having not beaten the All Blacks since 1953, mission improbable was in sight of being accomplished when Jones and company led 16-15 on the back of three Leigh Halfpenny penalties and a converted Rhys Webb try.
But New Zealand then flicked a switch that plunged Welsh hopes into darkness, scoring three tries and 19 unanswered points as a capacity 74,500 crowd saw hopes of witnessing history disappear without trace.
As against England and Scotland on their European tour earlier this month, the All Blacks failed to deliver an 80-minute performance, but it did not matter because they can win Test matches in the blink of an eye.
"The scoreline showed they can just pull away in the last 20 minutes, as they have done before against other teams," lock Jones said.
"I would say they are probably 20 minutes ahead of everybody else.
"I would like to think we can make up those 20 minutes. 'Gats' (Wales head coach Warren Gatland) is pretty intent on ensuring that the guys who are selected will be together for a long period before the World Cup. That will be telling in terms of where we are.
"We have one more (autumn) game, then we can review where we are.
"This was New Zealand's last game of the year, and they have finished where they want to be. I think they will have a lot more question marks after the pressure they've taken in their last few games, and maybe against us to a degree, I don't know.
"For 60 minutes, we can take quite a lot out of the game.
"There is a bit of me that says 'same old,' but then there's a part of me that says 'well, actually, we were well and truly in it, when other times we have been dipping in and out'. We will go back and have a look at it.
"It's a marginal improvement again. We are probably still a bit short, but I think post-Fiji (Wales laboured to a 17-13 win seven days previously) it's a pretty good turnaround as well."
The harsh facts are, though, that Wales have still not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 26 successive Tests and conceding more than 850 points, while their record against the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa during Gatland's six-year reign shows a solitary win from 27 starts.
The Springboks - unbeaten against Wales since 1999 - are next up in six days' time, with World Cup hosts England then following in a Friday night RBS 6 Nations opener on February 6.
"I am always optimistic," Jones added.
"I'm a big believer in not looking back, but in this instance we have to take heart from the second Test out there in the summer (Wales lost 31-30 to South Africa in Nelspruit), the Australia game at the start of this month, the match against New Zealand and look forward. That is all we can do.
"I don't think there was a secret in the first 60 minutes (against New Zealand). We were accurate and played in the right areas.
"We knew they were going to come out for the second-half and throw everything at us in the first 10 or 20 minutes.
"They did that and got the early score. We stemmed the tide a bit by getting one back, but the waves kept coming. The way their tries came - a couple of kicks, a tap back - these things come off when you have the experience, control of the loose play and the skills that these guys have got."
And Jones' second-row partner Jake Ball said: "You have to be positive.
"We played the best team in the world there, and we were winning after 69 minutes. We let it go and they had a little bit of a luck of the bounce as well.
"We defended really well, and if we defend like that against South Africa they won't have much ball to play with."