There was no perfect sign-off for Warren Gatland’s Wales as Ben Smith inspired the All Blacks to a stylish victory in the bronze final.
Smith, who along with the impressive Sonny Bill Williams, skipper Kieran Read and head coach Steve Hansen were representing the All Blacks for the final time, crossed for a first-half double in Tokyo.
Joe Moody and Beauden Barrett also went over in a dominant Kiwi first-half display, although Wales did hit back when Hallam Amos ghosted in down the left.
Ryan Crotty, likely in his final game as an All Black as well, extended their lead soon after the interval while Richie Mo’unga finished things off.
In between, Josh Adams grabbed his seventh try of the tournament to extend his advantage as the top try scorer in Japan.
But that was good as it got for Gatland, signing off after 12 trophy-laden years in charge of Wales, but he ends without a Welsh win over the mighty All Blacks.
Skipper Read led the All Black haka for the final time, and the game started at a breakneck speed.
Adams made an early break for Wales but when the All Blacks got motoring the first try did not take long to arrive.
It was a typically classy offloading affair, Read and man of the match Brodie Retallick both heavily involved before Moody found himself in space to burst clear.
Mo’unga and Aaron Smith were starting to enjoy themselves now and the No.9’s clever inside ball then released Barrett to burst through for their second.
But Wales did not take long to find a response, battering away at the All Black line for 14 phases before Amos ghosted clear down the left.
Rhys Patchell then banged over a penalty that closed the gap to 14-10 but Read re-gathered his troops for a chat on the half-hour mark.
And they finished the half in style, the impressive Williams winning a turnover before Ben Smith backed himself to cut back by the posts for their third.
And the retiring legend got his second on the hooter, another super Aaron Smith pass releasing him down the right and he grounded after a fierce hand-off on Tomos Williams.
The barrage continued at the start of the second period, a vintage Sonny Bill offload putting his centre partner Crotty over for their fifth.
And it looked like lightning had struck twice when the centre produced another deft dish to Smith for his hat-trick, but the TMO and Wayne Barnes spotted a knock-on and ruled it out.
Williams and Crotty then departed on the hour mark as Hansen emptied his bench one last time.
But it was Wales who hit back, Adams burrowing over from close range for his seventh try out here in Japan – a Welsh individual record.
The All Blacks’ flood of replacements derailed their momentum somewhat but Wales could not turn their possession into further points.
And Mo’unga finished the job in the left corner from a fine Brad Weber pass to seal a 40-17 victory.