A late try gave the All Blacks a flattering 24-16 win against Scotland at Murrayfield, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
With All Blacks coach Steve Hansen making 13 changes to the team that won at Twickenham, this was Scotland's golden opportunity to beat the New Zealanders for the first time in their history.
And for 70 minutes it looked a distinct possibility. But Greig Laidlaw missed a simple penalty kick that would have given the hosts a 19-17 lead, and then the All Blacks scored a try at the other end, through Man of the Match Jeremy Thrush, that gave them an eight-point cushion.
Hansen will be disappointed with the efforts of his fringe players, and pleased that he was able to bring some of his big guns off the bench on the 55-minute mark. They made a notable difference.
While Scotland coach Vern Cotter will be proud of his players, he will question some of their decision-making. The hosts had a dominant lineout, yet tried to run the ball out of their 22 in the final quarter only to concede a penalty that cost them three points.
This was a scrappy match that never sparked into life.
The All Blacks opened the scoring in the eighth minute when the ball went wide to Victor Vito, who broke the first tackle and got over in the left-hand corner despite the best efforts of another two defenders. Dan Carter had missed an early penalty and was also unsuccessful with the conversion.
Scotland, wearing unfamiliar red jerseys, hit the front when Tommy Seymour intercepted Richie McCaw's pass on the hosts' 10m line and sprinted away to score. But they then suffered two injury setbacks, with Mark Bennett (knee) and Finn Russell (concussion) leaving the field. While Russell returned to the field minutes later, Scotland then lost Euan Murray.
Carter soon found his radar, with three penalties giving the All Blacks a 14-10 lead at the break.
Laidlaw kicked his second penalty early in the second half and with a point still separating the teams with 25 minutes to go, Hansen turned to his bench, with Colin Slade, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea coming on to join other substitutes Liam Messam and Dane Coles.
Slade and Laidlaw exchanged penalties to make it 17-16, before Laidlaw missed that simple kick with 10 minutes to go.
On such mistakes are matches won and lost, and the All Blacks made him pay with their second try.
Scotland – Try: Tommy Seymour. Conversion: Greig Laidlaw. Penalties: Laidlaw (3).
All Blacks – Tries: Victor Vito, Jeremy Thrush. Conversion: Colin Slade. Penalties: Dan Carter (3), Slade.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Ray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Sean Lamont.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Colin Slade, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Dan Carter, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Richie McCaw (c), 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Julian Savea.
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images