Rugby World Cup 2019: Ben Smith produces final flourish, as All Blacks clinch third

Veteran Ben Smith has brought his international rugby career to a fitting end, scoring a try double and narrowly missing his hat-trick, as the All Blacks overran Wales 40-17 for third place at the Rugby World Cup.

Smith produced his scoring efforts before halftime, cutting back against the grain of the Welsh defence for his first and outpacing his markers on the outside for his second.

His heroics helped his team to a 28-10 lead at the break and soon after the restart, he crossed again, only to have the final pass ruled forward.

Played between two teams bitterly disappointed at missing out on Saturday's final, the match could easily have degenerated into a dour affair, but instead produced some scintillating action.

New Zealand quickly stamped their authority on the encounter, with prop Tom Moody and fullback Beauden Barrett scoring tries, both converted by Richie Mo'unga.

The Welsh enjoyed a period where they threatened to take a lead into halftime, with fullback Hallam Amos showing too much pace for Smith to score, Rhys Patchell converting and then adding a penalty to reduce the margin to four points.

all blacks squad
Photo credit: Newshub.

Smith's brace restored the All Blacks superiority and when centre Ryan Crotty - another making his last appearance in the black jersey - scored early in the second half, Wales were all-but vanquished.

They managed another try through wing Josh Adams, but Mo'unga took advantage of an attacking scrum to finish the job with five minutes remaining.

New Zealand finish third at the Rugby World Cup for the third time.

The result also marked an end to the careers of both coaches - All Blacks mastermind Steve Hansen and fellow Kiwi Warren Gatland for Wales.

Usually a man who keeps his emotions in check, Hansen barely contained his tears in a post-game interview, before bidding farewell.

Gatland will return to New Zealand to coach the Chiefs in 2020 Super Rugby, before taking charge of the British & Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa the following year.

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