New Zealand ultimately showed their class and cutting edge on Sunday at Murrayfield to see off a Scotland side that were competitive, but lacking in discipline and incisiveness.
The All Blacks’ big guns of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw produced a masterclass to effectively put the game out of sight within a 10 minute spell late in the first half, with Carter in particular producing some majestic slight of hand and footwork to cut the Scottish defence to shreds.
The customary pre-match optimism manifested itself in a huge roar of support before the kick off, and once Sir Chris Hoy had placed the ball in the centre circle, it was game on.
Straight from their own kick off, New Zealand won the ball back and forced a penalty which Dan Carter duly slotted and the All Blacks were into the simplest of 3-0 leads.
With another penalty, Carter missed his only kick of the day after 10 minutes amidst unsavoury booing from the Murrayfield crowd and it stayed 3-0.
And then after 13 minutes, the Scottish crowd were brought to their feet.
The All Blacks had been going through the phases on half way but in what was to be one of very few mistakes for Carter, he threw a pass straight into the hands of Matt Scott who raced away and handed on to Tim Visser to finish. Laidlaw converted and Scotland led 7-3.
The next few minutes saw Scotland hold out in the face of New Zealand pressure inside their own 22, but the All Blacks just kept coming and a brilliant break from Carter opened up the defence. From the resulting phases a shoulder injury to Ross Rennie produced more space for Carter to slice through again and offload to Israel Dagg for New Zealand’s first try.
Scotland began to threaten again, but more mistakes stifled the attacking flow they had. Despite this, after 24 minutes Greg Laidlaw slotted a penalty to take the score back to 10-10.
The All Blacks were starting to get into their stride though and it took some good scrambling defence from Scotland to stop a score in the left hand corner after excellent offloading from the New Zealand backline.
Another Carter penalty made it 13-10 before the speed at which the All Blacks recycled the ball just became too much for Scotland and winger Julian Savea finished off a simple through the hands move in the left hand corner, which Carter converted.
After half an hour the visitors led 20-10 and it was to be the start of a period of play which effectively ended the game for Scotland. New Zealand’s next try came only a few minutes later: more exhibition-class sleight of hand, and brilliant support play saw Cory Jane end another sweeping move in the right hand corner. Scotland simply could not regroup quickly enough in defence. Carter once again slotted the kick as the Murrayfield crowd realised booing the best player in the world is an exercise in futility.
New Zealand were running rampant at this point, threatening every time they went forward and their lead became unassailable with their final try of the first half. The Scots were falling off tackles and their defence just did not look aggressive enough as hooker Andrew Hore bundled his way over on the right hand side, again after almost Sevens like ball retention, to make it 34-10.
It could have been easy for Scotland to lie down in the last few minutes of the first half but they took it to the All Blacks and went through the phases picking and going and rumbling towards the New Zealand try line. After a review by the TMO it was decided a charge from Matt Scott had ended in the ball being held up. However with a penalty advantage Scotland still had time to tap and go and after another barrage by the forwards Geoff Cross squeezed over to make it 34-17 at half time.
Scotland needed to come out and dominate the opening exchanges in the second half and to the delight of the crowd they did. After being camped in the New Zealand half for the best part of 10 minutes, opting to go for the corner whenever a penalty was awarded, they finally got a reward for some hard graft. And after Adam Thompson was sin-binned for shoeing Al Strokosch, Laidlaw popped the ball out of a ruck with his boot which was gathered by Mike Blair and handed on to the waiting Visser who ran in unopposed for the second time. With the conversion missed it was 34-22 to New Zealand and we thought maybe, just maybe.
Carter immediately responded from the kick off with a penalty to open up the score to 37-22 before Scotland once again kicked to the corner to go for another rumble to the New Zealand try line. However the men in black soaked up the pressure and essentially Scotland’s efforts came to nothing this time.
By this point after 20 minutes of the second half Scotland had almost had all the possession, but it was the All Blacks who got on the scoreboard with Carter again the inspiration after yet another Ford error from the lineout. A chip across field bounced perfectly into the arms of Julian Savea saw the left winger cruise in for a try after stepping Stuart Hogg.
The Scots continued to waste possession and territory with knock ons and penalties for not releasing the ball and it wasn’t long before the All Blacks clinically took advantage of one of their few forays into Scotland territory in the second half. From a lineout on the Scots 22, New Zealand moved through a few phases before that man Carter again glided through the defence again, effectively taking out 4 Scottish defenders with his footwork before handing on to centre Ben Smith for New Zealand’s sixth try.
Scotland had one last attack but again bad handling saw the ball go out of the play and the game come to an end.
New Zealand had this game won by half time but Scotland should take heart from the 3 tries scored today. However, the number of basic errors and wasted opportunities in the second half especially will frustrate the team. New Zealand had two opportunities in the second half and took 14 points away. Scotland could only dream of being that clinical.
On the plus side, the Scottish pack stood up well to the All Blacks and they will take plenty of confidence into the South Africa game next week. New Zealand are a cut above anyone right now and showed it with some magical handling and support play that took Scotland’s back line to pieces. Rennie going off in the first half meant the speed of the All Blacks recycling at ruck time went unchallenged and the 3 tries before they scored shortly after that killed Scotland.
It wasn’t the worst I’ve felt leaving Murrayfield and I say bring on the Boks next week.