The All Blacks staved off a gutsy fightback from Scotland to claim a hard-fought 22-17 win in Edinburgh on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
New Zealand may have come away with the expected result in the end, but they certainly didn’t have it all their own way as an ever-improved Scottish side produced a passionate performance from start to finish.
In a thrilling conclusion to the Test, Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg produced a sniping break and appeared destined to go over for a potentially match-winning try, but in the end he spilt the ball forward as Beauden Barrett came across to complete a covering tackle.
With the scores level at 3-3 at half-time, the All Blacks only managed to establish some semblance of control when Codie Taylor and Damian McKenzie scored in the third quarter.
However, Scotland simply refused to give up the fight, and just after All Blacks flanker Sam Cane was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements, the hosts hit back with a try to Jonny Gray.
Despite their one-man disadvantage, though, the All Blacks manufactured a superb try that was finished off by Beauden Barrett, and which opened up some breathing room at 22-10.
Even when the All Blacks lost another man to the sin bin – Wyatt Crockett – there was just too much ground for Scotland to make up, even though Huw Jones did give them some real hope when he dotted down late in the game.
That cut the deficit back to just five points once again, but in typical fashion, the All Blacks simply refused to be beaten on a night when they were outplayed for much of the contest.
Early on in this enthralling clash, the All Blacks had proved to be their own worst enemy as they conceded as many as five penalties in the opening quarter, with Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell slotting a penalty in the seventh minute.
Scotland continued to frustrate the All Blacks with the ferocity of their play in the opening stanza, while the visitors were twice left to rue turning down shots at goal.
In the end, New Zealand would have headed into the break as an extremely frustrated bunch as all they had to show for their efforts were the three points that came via the boot of Beauden Barrett just before half-time.
Yet the All Blacks produced an improved second-half display to claim the desired result in the end.
Scotland – Tries: Jonny Gray, Huw Jones. Conversions: Finn Russel (2). Penalty: Russell.
All Blacks – Tries: Codie Taylor, Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2). Penalty: Barrett.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo.
Subs: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Byron McGuigan.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images