15. Leigh Halfpenny – 7
He may have slipped for Johnny Leota’s match-clinching score, but Halfpenny seems unaffected by Wales’ slump. Once more, the diminutive full-back managed to look assured, sparky and unerring from the tee. Took an immense clattering from George Pisi early in the second period but remained with his colleagues. One hell of a fighter.
14. Alex Cuthbert – 4½
Over the past year, Cuthbert has shown enough class to be considered something close to a world-class winger. Though his defence stood up adequately to waves intimidating runners, the Cardiff Blue has earned the right to be judged on pernickety details – a weak ruck clear-out prior to Samoa’s second try, for instance. Nobody looked more distraught at the final whistle.
13. Ashley Beck – 5
Flashes of brilliance on his first Millennium Stadium start confirmed Beck’s potential. An interception try was superbly anticipated and one pick-pocket tackle got the crowd excited. Too lateral in attack, but that should be put right this week.
12. Jamie Roberts – 5½
The struggles of those in front of him means that Roberts simply cannot be the focal ball-carrier as he was at the World Cup a year ago. However, some tenacious defence last night was evidence of his continued value at international level. Time and again, opposite number Paul Williams was man-handled.
11. George North – 4
Sadly, North’s futile contributions over the last week have summed up his country’s distinct lack of inspiration. Past schoolboy level, shovelling the ball to your biggest, quickest runner does not work without the semblance of a platform. Someone needs to tell Rob Howley that.
10. Dan Biggar – 5
Unfortunate to be scythed in half by the hulking Filo Paulo, because he was growing into the game. One glaring miss of touch and might have liked to seize better field position, but ball was always scrappy.
9. Mike Phillips – 5½
This was a rare piece of encouraging news for the hosts – it appears that their best scrum half is hungry again. From spiky snipes off the back of line-outs to berating referees (perhaps even in French), Phillips looked on the road back to his best. Nine tackles without a miss proved his abrasiveness.
1. Paul James – 4½
Not too bad. Made a big defensive gaffe to allow Taiasina Tui’fua an inviting gap in the opening moments, but recovered to shore up the scrum thereafter, even against humongous Census Johnston. It got very messy when he was withdrawn on the hour.
2. Richard Hibbard – N/A
Only lasted 17 minutes after being smashed by Tui’fua and seeing his shoulder give way in another monstrous hit.
3. Aaron Jarvis – 4
Fell off Tui’fua to set the tone for Wales’ tentativeness up front and was part of a scrum that splintered in the final quarter, although he was not helped by Gethin Jenkins’ non-attendance. Adam Jones is worth his weight in gold.
4. Bradley Davies – 3
Davies’ selection was heartening. When in the mood, his directness propels Wales and aids structure. On Friday night, he became a bit of a liability, committing needless ruck offences, failing to stabilise the set-piece and neglecting his normal physicality. There was even a dodgy pass in midfield. Frustrating.
5. Ian Evans – 4
Another to succumb to injury, Evans is far below his marauding best. Withered in the fierce face of Daniel Leo and could not solve the line-out inconsistencies.
6. Ryan Jones (captain) – 4
Received a standing ovation upon being replaced, which felt curious. Granted, Jones led his nation for a record 29th time, but he had endured a bad night. Industrious as always, his carries were utterly ineffective – six of them made eight metres – and over-exuberance saw the 31 year-old pinged five times.
7. Justin Tipuric – 5
The lightest forward on the field looked exactly that, and only became a force at the breakdown as the play became fractured. Still, size did not stop him topping the tackle count.
8. Toby Faletau – 4½
Alert to snaffle a turnover in the first half and put in another good shift on defence but Faletau was a spectre of the runner that took the game to Argentina. Coughing up the ball at the hands of Tusi Pisi as the clock ran down summed that up.
Replacements: Ken Owens burrowed bravely and Luke Charteris made a strong case for inclusion against the All Blacks, but the main story here was two poor displays – one surprising, the other less so. Gethin Jenkins has obviously softened from inactivity at Toulon and was terrorised by James Johnston, while Rhys Priestland booted some good ball – and surely his immediate international prospects – away.
15. Fa’atoina Autagavaia – 6, 14. Paul Perez – 6, 13. George Pisi – 7, 12. Paul Williams – 6, 11. David Lemi (captain) – 6½, 10. Tusi Pisi – 7½, 9. Kahn Fotuali’i – 8, 1. S Taulafo – 5, 2. Ole Avei – 6, 3. Census Johnston – 7, 4. Daniel Leo – 7, 5. Filo Paulo – 6, 6. Ofisa Treviranus – 7, 7. Maurie Faasavulu – 7½, 8. Taiasina Tui’fua – 8½.
They brought everything everybody expected – power, passion and inventiveness – and it was all too much for Wales to handle. Halfbacks Kahn Fotuali’i and Tusi Pisi were electric at times and George Pisi provided characteristic moments of genius, notably an acrobatic finish early in the second half. Samoa’s destroyer-in-chief deserved the man-of-the-match award, though. Step forward, Taisana Tui’fua. The number eight managed 94 rampaging running metres and some simply brutal hits – a wonderful night at the office.