Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Five areas where it went wrong for Scotland against the All Blacks

Jonny Gray
Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg tackle the All Blacks - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Gregor Townsend’s thoughts will firmly have turned to the challenge of the Wallabies on Saturday, but many will still be mulling over the heartbreak of letting a first-ever win over the All Blacks slip through our fingers.

It was there for the taking, and the world champions knew it.

So did Townsend and his players, with a “gutted” skipper John Barclay saying post-match: “That’s one that got away.”

So where did it go wrong? We take a look at five moments that turned the match

1) Inability to take chances

We created plenty – indeed much has been made of the 17 entries into the All Blacks’ 22 by Toony’s side, but they were not clinical enough.

Early in the first half, Cornell Du Preez dropped a straightforward pass that denied Lee Jones the chance to capitalize on a two-on-one, while Huw Jones dropped Finn Russell’s pass about six or seven metres from the All Black line. Zander Fagerson was guilty too, dropping a short pass from Ali Price before compounding the fact and giving away a penalty at the resultant scrum.

Du Preez, on his maiden Test start, could be forgiven early nerves, while Fagerson had replaced WP Nel earlier in the week, but dangerman man Jones will know he should’ve done better with
‘only’ Sonny Bill Williams to beat. That failure to take chances proved costly in the end, and the hosts knew it.

“We probably left a couple of scores out there,” said a dejected Stuart Hogg at the post-match press conference.

2) Lapses in concentration

Previous victories over Australia, England and a once-mighty South Africa have proved Scotland must be at their absolute best to topple the big four. Townsend’s men were agonizingly close, but some lapses in concentration and application cost the Scots an historic victory.

The decision to take a five-metre scrum with the All Blacks down a man seems, on the face of things, a sensible one. But when Kane Hames sprinted from the bench to re-enter the fray with the speed of a champion racehorse, you felt the Scots may have wanted to reconsider. Particularly when the home front row had not enjoyed its best day.

So it proved, as the All Blacks powered the hosts off the ball to win a penalty and clear to touch. Perhaps another leader – I’m looking at Mr Laidlaw – may have chosen to tap and go, or
even to kick the points. Similarly Tommy Seymour’s moment of madness touching the ball down in-goal after it had hit his leg. Was the winger trying to call ref Matt Carley’s bluff? Did he not realise it he’s carried it over? Either way, it was odd and thanks only to the good work of Ali Price it didn’t cost any points.

3) Injuries

Townsend’s side were up against a mammoth task anyway, but to lose Zander Fagerson at half-time was a big blow. Alex Dunbar’s head knock was a double blow, forcing the defensive linchpin off while the All Blacks scored their first try, Reiko Ioane’s pass to Codie Taylor on the left wing exploiting a gap that Dunbar would’ve filled somewhere in the midfield.

Before that, Hamish Watson had been forced off, and his replacement Luke Hamilton – a fine performer on his international debut – had his involvement curtailed with a serious-looking ankle injury. That meant hooker George Turner came on, with he and Stuart McInally rotating between the front and back rows. Not ideal in any circumstance, far less against the best side in the world.

Luckily, this is probably the only area they can’t do anything about.

4) The referee

It was hard to ignore the influence Mr Carley had on proceedings, a couple of big calls swinging the balance towards the men in black. The decision not to card Waisake Naholo after the winger clattered into Stuart Hogg in mid-air seemed a strange one at the time, with the TMO appearing to talk Carley down from his stance that it was a sin-bin offence. Give the Englishman his due, not many referees have shown two yellow cards to All Blacks in such a close match, but should there have been two more? Naholo was lucky, but not quite as lucky as his skipper Kieran Read.

The number eight, lying at the bottom of a ruck, slapped the ball out the hands of Jonny Gray 5m from the Kiwi line, but Carley missed it and instead said Gray had knocked on, disallowing
Jamie Bhatti’s try in the process. Had Bhatti been allowed to celebrate a maiden Test touch down, perhaps Scots would have left Murrayfield celebrating a first-ever win over the All Blacks. Either way New Zealand should probably have gone 30+ minutes down a man or two.

5) All Black Magic

Two scores off set-plays, a sumptuous grubber for Damian McKenzie – who, had things been different, could have been wearing Scotland colours on Saturday evening – for the first score, and a beautiful second that saw Sonny Bill Williams clatter over Peter Horne before offloading to McKenzie who chucked a marvelous pass out to the flying Beauden Barrett, who slid over.

They were delightful scores, fit to win any Test match and right out of the top All Blacks drawer – which is a pretty big drawer. Exceptional too, was the tackle from Barrett that hauled down Stuart Hogg in the game’s dying embers. Lady Luck probably sat on the side of the All Blacks at the weekend – especially the Read incident being missed – as they left BT Murrayfield with their unbeaten Test record against the Scots just about intact, but if Townsend’s side can repeat their performance this weekend, they will go a long way towards beating the Wallabies for a second time this year.

33 Responses

  1. Looking back at the last moments when Barrett got Hogg I’m slightly disappointed that there wasn’t someone closer to him. Hogg was travelling at some pace but he left the support some way behind. Scotlands support running has been good the last couple of years but they were probably all tired given how late in the game it was. He probably thought he could get round Barrett but his tackle timing was perfect. Again with hindsight he would probably jink off his left foot next time or put in a grubber kick off the outside of his right foot towards the post in the hope that the support would get there. Fine margins but he had a hell of a game though.

      1. In hindsight he could have taken the contact and set up the ruck and with the extra man a gap would’ve appeared but hindsight is a wonderful thing and he was making ground for fun all game.

  2. Think this was highlighted in the podcast but New Zealand went the whole length of the pitch to save a first ever defeat to Ireland in similar circumstances a while back.

    They clearly have more experience of one mistake and we’re toast but I’d imagine even with the chance to break clear like Hogg they may have manufactured it into a half break which means they have support and can recycle.

    They would continue to make ground and wait for the moment. Scotland are much better than the five yards from the line charge until we knock on we had for years but this is another progression.

    If Hogg makes it who cares but we made it to halfway with structure and half breaks we’d have got to five yards the same way. So disappointed. We are now going to have to wait till the world cup final in 2019 to avenge this defeat.

      1. I only got halfway through the pod when making this post and then listened to the rest only for my bold prediction of getting to the world cup final to have already been said on the pod making it look like a recycled line but it was done entirely from my old stubborn optimism. I’m delighted there is at least one other Scot who holds to these lofty beliefs.

      2. I too believe we will get to the final in 2019…here’s my rough prediction/what I think would suit our slow boil toward the rwc…

        V Australia – win
        6N V england, wales, italy – win
        6N V Ireland, france – lose
        Come 2/3 place
        6N19 V england, Ireland – lose
        6N19 V Italy, wales, France – win

        V Ireland – lose
        V all blacks – win
        V Ireland in final – win

        This way other teams will continue to give us short shrift until it is too late…not sure how we hold up over the next few years if we were no.1/2 in 6N. That would be an incredible amount of media generated pressure.

      3. @Frozen North, I like your optimism, but too much optimism rarely sits well with me; think it’s something to do with the ground-in pessimism of watching Scottish rugby for years!

        I can see us beating France in the 6N, but think England will be too strong, even at home, so we’ll finish a comfortable 3rd behind England and Ireland.

        But then if the youngsters keep developing on the trajectory they’re on so far (G. Horne, Cummings, both Fagersons, Bradbury, Ritchie, etc. – even someone like Darcy Graham), then we’re only going to get better and better and your prediction to win the RWC might not look so far fetched in a year or two!

      4. Graham is in 7s squad – be interesting to see how he does with all that space. George Horne was absolutely amazing at 7s.

  3. It is early to be predicting anything however on the face of it Scotland should have only one thing to fear against England, even away and that is the press build up. I don’t think it matters which team we field, we have the resilience to cope, we are under less pressure away and they have the arrogance to overlook our self belief. Bring on Australia .

  4. Fairly sure this isn’t the right place for this, but I’ve gotta say that Edinburgh got screwed hard tonight by the ref. The Cheetahs’ replacement front row were boring in at every scrum, and he bought it! It was very disappointing, not to mention his failure to card a blatant airborne shoulder charge and various other failures. Again it’s poor of the Pro14 to have a home referee. Is it a theme of the round or something?

    That said, Edinburgh didn’t look great. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Kinghorn scything through broken play, but that just didn’t happen. I’m afraid we could see a triple loss this weekend…

    1. Cam, granted you saw things I couldn’t but for whatever reasons the entire Edinburgh scrum was a car crash in that last 25 or so.

      1. I’m no expert, so I’m probably wrong, but it looked like the Cheetahs were boring in hugely. At least twice their replacement tighthead (I think – I’m not watching that back!) was pushing at a 45 degree angle. And after the third try, it didn’t matter what happened, he awarded against Edinburgh.

      2. Stu, Sutherland came on as a sub and he’s a lh pro. Ref’s attention seemed focused on the Embra th. Weird, as Embra’s only try came from a stuffing of the Cheetah scrum. Perhaps it’s a ref thing, but more likely it’s a (lack of) strength in depth thing with the Test players out of the picture here.

      3. Did McCallum get on alright then with Bryce getting a stuffing? Really baffles me that he made the switch from hooked when he was getting capped in that position.

      4. Guys, you’re really testing me on front row stuff, aren’t you lol? Pretty sure it was Fenton – a one year contract pro – who was the principal offender according to the ref.
        Whatever, the scrum was utterly minced in the last third. I mean utterly minced.

    2. More seriously, everytime they have “spidercam” you see the dominant scrum team either boring in or shearing…secure in the knowledge they will get a penalty for whatever arbitrary thing the ref will see.

  5. Fenton was one of the chaps ‘loaned’ , ‘given’ to LS last year. He didn’t cut it, and that’s a million miles away from scrummaging against Saffers. Bit brutal, but I don’t see him cutting it.

  6. Over the next 3 or 4 years in the 6 Nations (assuming we continue on our current upwards trajectory) the only games I would see us struggle to win would be England home and away, and Ireland away. I hope I’m not being presumptuous but I think we’ve finally overtaken Wales and France, we’re close to Ireland, England however are a bit ahead of the pack, but a lot can change in a couple of years.

    1. Despite last year’s win Ireland are still some way ahead of us. When we can match their consistency at reaching our peak intensity (as against NZ) we’ll be a 6N challenger but it still remains to be seen whether our performance against the ABs becomes our new benchmark.

    2. Think you’re being seriously optomistic about France as well. They play a turgid and boring brand of forward dominated brutal rugby, but we have not been able to deal with the huge men grinding us into the mud or dust in the last few years. Why do you think this year will be any different, given our scrum issues?

      1. I think it is possible to beat France, we usually respond by moving them around in the first half till they are fatigued in the second. GT is big on superiour fitness. France is characterised by their inconsistent temperament so who knows what will rock up on the day. They are the only world cup contenders that have yet to win IMO.

      2. Well as we beat them two years ago and they have flattered to deceive since I think we have to say France is a must win game for us. Yes they’re big, but they are poorly coached and we can beat them.

  7. I don’t usually give in to such pettiness but I really hope Wales get pumped by the All Blacks today.

    1. I have 100 % agree , we proved what a idiot he was with our performance last week , part 2 is now a 50 point drubbing by the all blacks , phase 3 will end with us beating wales in wales next year and gatland being sacked the biased a-hole with rob howley brown nosing him on the way out.

  8. Just reflecting on the first half .
    Brutal to be missing Hoggy
    Good to see mcguigan showing what he is about.
    Both sides are making some mistakes
    Woah driving maul.
    Seymour continued poor run of form show with a concended try and previous dropped attacking high balls.
    We are lucky aus just got a red.

  9. Well, that was surprising. Good to see is being quite merciless, even if we left some tries out there. If Hoggy has been fit that would have been brutal. Brainless from Kepu – it wasn’t even under pressure – and concerning that we conceded two tries to 14 men. Some interesting calls from PG, but I was quietly impressed that he issued a red card. It does taint the game somewhat, but two from two against the Aussies is pretty good.

    I do feel bad for Moore, though, and Tongan Thor looked devastated at the end.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion