Spirited Scotland did their utmost to derail the All Blacks’ European tour and the locals will feel the 51-22 defeat didn’t reflect the true tale of this match in Edinburgh.
On the face of it the All Blacks walk away with a six-tries-to-three victory and extend their unbeaten season to 18 matches, but points alone don't paint the picture of what was a largely underwhelming start to their northern sojourn.
It took Steve Hansen's men too long to find their feet. They made sloppy mistakes, their ball handling was poor at times and they put themselves under pressure by kicking the ball out on the full.
In short, Hansen has plenty to ponder. His new-look midfield lacked punch and the loose-trio weren’t dominant, although Victor Vito performed strongly.
Making 10 starting changes from the draw in Brisbane two weeks ago clearly had an adverse affect.
An eerie one-minute silence descended on Murrayfield before kick-off to mark Remembrance Day. On top of the famous venue’s roof, the bagpipes rang out and the Scots certainly embraced the occasion in the opening quarter.
The Scots have never beaten the All Blacks in 28 attempts, but after second five-eighths Matt Scott swallowed Dan Carter’s pass and put the Flying Dutchman Tim Visser away for the shock first try, they dared to dream.
Carter, to his credit, had an otherwise exemplary match, scoring 21 points with only one missed kick.
Scotland attacked the visitors with short chip kicks, their defence and vigour at the breakdowns was physical and punishing and they made a mess of the All Blacks’ kick-off receptions.
Basically, they contested everything like their lives depended on it.
Wider out Andy Robinson's men may be limited but for large parts of this game they played to their strengths which exposed the All Blacks weaknesses in some areas.
For the first 25-minutes, Scotland were competitive and, at times, even had the better of the world champions.
Carter made up for his costly error with two clean line-breaks to put fullback Israel Dagg over and ease early nerves for the visitors.
The remainder of the first spell went to a familiar script for the All Blacks.
After taking the wind out of the Scots' initial onslaught, Dagg departed in the 23-minute after a nasty fall from a high-ball attempt and he was replaced by Beauden Barrett.
That didn’t halt the All Blacks revival as three tries in 10-minutes completed a hat-trick for the back-three.
Julian Savea expertly finished a sweeping movement that saw backs and forwards beautifully interlink. Cory Jane then sealed back-to-back strikes from the wingers and when hooker Andrew Hore barged over just before the break, it threatened to turn ugly. Another cricket score beckoned.
This time, the Scots refused to give in.
Inspirational lock Richie Gray led the charge on half-time and when prop Geoff Cross crashed over to send shivers up local kilts, the Scots thought they had some hope.
It got worse after the interval for the tourists.
Expect to hear more about Adam Thomson’s 44th minute yellow from card French referee Jerome Garces. Thomson could be in hot water after his foot made contact with the head of Scottish blindside Alasdair Strokosch. It initially appeared innocuous rucking, but don’t be surprised if Thomson is cited.
Visser then scored his second try as over 67,000 found their voices.
While the All Blacks were under the pump throughout, they never really looked in danger of losing this match.
Rookie hooker Dane Coles and halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow got their first caps and late tries to Savea, his second, and centre Ben Smith sealed the opening victory.
Scotland 22: Tim Visser 2, Geoff Cross tries, Greg Laidlaw 2 conversions, penalty
New Zealand 51: Israel Dagg, Julian Savea 2, Cory Jane, Andrew Hore, Ben Smith tries, Dan Carter, 6 conversions, 3 penalties.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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