Poaching Scott inspires Carter to a masterclass
Scotland's biggest mistake at Murrayfield yesterday was making Dan Carter look bad.
Scottish second five-eighth Matt Scott may have been better off not poaching Carter's pass for the opening try in the All Blacks' 51-22 victory at Edinburgh.
From that moment, to make up for his rare blunder, Carter turned on an exquisite masterclass.
Few athletes in world sport are better at putting a mistake to bed. Many allow a costly error, such as this was, to fluster them and ruin the rest of their day's work.
Not Carter. Almost instantly he accepts it, realises there is nothing he can do - except move on. He refuses to let errors have a snowball effect on his mindset.
"Some of my best games have come off mistakes early in the match," Carter said after the test, giving an insight into what can drive him at times.
"I pride myself to bounce back from mistakes. I was pretty disappointed to give them an easy seven points like that so early in the game. It was important I came back, basically put it behind me and moved on to the next task. If you worry about that and not what's happened you can sort things out."
Sounds like advice from a relationship manual. Then again, Carter has rewritten the textbook on first five-eighth's play and the published version would be a bestseller.
Not long after gifting the spirited Scots a dream start, Carter ignited his devastating running game. Even the most staunch Scottish supporters couldn't help but marvel at his array of skill, vision, execution and poise.
After two clean breaks and a powerful fend, fullback Israel Dagg was the first beneficiary of three tries Carter would lay on a silver platter, this time for his team-mates. A pinpoint cross-field kick set up Julian Savea's double and another jinking run handed centre Ben Smith the final say.
Yet again, Scott was the catalyst as the Scots' rush defence forced Carter to take the ball to the line and exploit the inside channels. Memories of his sublime form against the Lions in 2005 came flooding back.
"It's something I want to bring back to my game, running with the ball in hand," Carter said.
Not surprising, both coach Steve Hansen and captain Richie McCaw singled out their man-of-the-match playmaker, who also nailed 21 points, for lavish praise that will flow from all corners of the globe.
"He did it all day," Hansen said.
Carter's ice-cool class was a rare treat for northern rugby scribes used to frigid No 10s.
"When he takes the ball to the line he makes opportunities for others because he becomes a big threat," McCaw said.
"He's got a pretty good knack of realising when it's on. That fend can be deadly when he gets a bit of space. It's great to see him playing like that. He's pretty happy in the shed. I thought he had a hell of a good game."
Needless to say Aaron Cruden has big boots to fill in Rome this week. The Manawatu and Chiefs pivot is expected to start against the Italians, who scraped to an unconvincing 28-23 win over Tonga at the weekend, with Beauden Barrett the frontrunner to replace injured fullback Israel Dagg.
It will be interesting to see how the All Blacks cope without two of their most influential figures, Carter and McCaw.
The one-dimensional Italians don't inspire fear but, for the All Blacks, the manner of their performance is more important than the opposition.