Scotland 23-31 New Zealand: All Blacks roar back at the death

Scotland led for long spells at Murrayfield but were undone by a powerful finish by the touring side.

Scotland 23-31 New Zealand: All Blacks roar back at the death

New Zealand recovered from almost an hour of Scotland pressure to take the game and extend their unbeaten record over the Dark Blues.

After a ferocious start from the visitors it was Gregor Townsend’s side who responded emphatically to claim a half time lead.

But a yellow card allowed the visitors to roar back in the final stages and claim victory.

It is always a big occasion when the famous All Blacks come to Edinburgh and after an absence of five years it was no surprise that Murrayfield sold out months ago for their return.

The noise was turned up when the name of Finn Russell was read out before kick off – the home fans in no doubt about the returning fly half’s importance to their hopes.

The All Blacks took no time in getting to work. Debutant Mark Telea handed off Stuart Hogg with ease and Scotland were pinged at the resultant breakdown.

From the lineout New Zealand got a fresh penalty advantage and Scott Barrett barreled over to give the tourists a seven point lead after just three minutes.

There followed a helter-skelter four minutes in which both sides turned over the ball twice, but again the All Blacks made more of the chances, first gathering a grubber to enter the Scotland 22, then a cross field kick found Telea in acres of space to gather and score.

The Scots, to their credit, responded by upping the pace and testing their visitors. A quick lineout opened up a space for Stuart Hogg to burst through the line and chip towards the try line.

As went to gather the ball and score he was tackled from behind by Anton Lienert-Brown. The TMO decision was a penalty try and yellow card for the New Zealand outside centre.

The capacity Murrayfield crowd was being treated to an end-to-end thriller now as line break by either side got the fans on their feet. Just as the All Blacks looked to be threatening again from turnover ball Darcy Graham pilfered an intercept and ran it home past two despairing tackles.

Russell added the extras and a breathless opening 15 minutes had the scores tied at 14-14 and the momentum firmly swung towards the hosts in their change colours of pink and blue.

Graham had a score chalked off as he went into touch just before acrobatically finishing at the corner.

Playing a penalty advantage Scotland then had another go from a rolling maul but could not convert to another try and so took the points from the boot of Russell to edge ahead 17-14 with nine minutes until the break.

Right as the clock went red the Scots had a chance to extend the lead but outstanding All Black defence repelled them to send the sides in with just three points the difference.

Townsend’s men kept their grip on the momentum with a terrific kick off chase that allowed them to recover possession inside their own half from the clearing kick.

An offside penalty gave Russell a simple kick at goal and he split the uprights to extend the advantage to six points.

New Zealand looked unsure of their plan, kicking away possession and making basic errors in defence, all while Scotland enjoyed dominance at the scrum and rock solid lineout.

A 53rd minute scrum penalty to the Scots was again nailed by Russell and the lead was now two scores.

The All Blacks had to find a way back in to the contest and it was their maul defence that wrestled a foothold back from the Scots. After turning the ball over inside the opposition 22 they won a penalty that Jordie Barrett kicked to get the scoreboard to 23-17.

The wind in their sails with first score in 55 minutes of play visitors came at the Scots line with ferocity and, under intense pressure on the goal-line, a deliberate knock-on by Jack Dempsey saw him sin binned for ten minutes.

Back came the Kiwis to muscle over through Scott Barrett once more and re-take the lead with 13 minutes left to play.

The extra man advantage was always going to be a draining time for Scotland at such a late stage and the All Blacks knew it as they trucked it up through the middle repeatedly. That allowed the space out wide for Telea to score in the corner and Jordie Barrett’s conversion put the game beyond the hosts.

The final scoreline of eight points spoke mainly of the final stages where New Zealand used their power and experience to exploit a tired, shorthanded Scotland, but this was a closer contest than the scoreboard suggested.

That alone must give Townsend and his players confidence that they can move forward from a disappointing 2022 and rediscover their best form.

Scotland Player Ratings

Stuart Hogg 8 – Instrumental in the tries scored for Scotland and had a huge game in defence as he rose to the massive occasion.
Darcy Graham 8 – Fine finish and millimetres away from another try on the touchline. A constant thorn in the side with his elusive carrying.
Chris Harris 7 – Rock solid defence through the midfield and relished his chances to get his hands the ball when called-upon.
Sione Tuipulotu 7 – Looks to have a grip on the 12 jersey now as he mixes clever hands with footwork and collisions.
Duhan van der Merwe 8 – Got loose a few times to worry the All Blacks line and was a menace under the high ball and in the kick chase.
Finn Russell 8 – Marshalled the attack with confidence and played some sublime flat passes to take out defenders. Kicking was spot on.
Ali Price 8 – Instant connection with his half back partner at 10 and kept the attack purring when they got on the front foot. Consistent kicking from hand.
Pierre Schoeman 8 – Had his man on toast at the scrum and got right into the mix around the tackle area.
Fraser Brown 8 – A war horse in contact and always trusting his instincts to make life hard for NZ at the breakdown. Darts were inch perfect at the lineout.
Zander Fagerson 8 – Abrasive, powerful and purposeful while keeping his discipline when required.
Richie Gray 8 – His return has coincided with the lineout become a weapon once again and he is puttin in inch-perfect work across the field.
Grant Gilchrist 8 – A magnificent 65 minutes on the park where he tackled hard, read the attack perfectly run an excellent lineout alongside Gray.
Jamie Ritchie 8 – Led with distinction as he carried and tackled powerfully, as well as stealing the ball on multiple occasions.
Hamish Watson 6 – Looked right in the mood with some burrowing carries and a superb kick chase but day was ended early when hurt while bundling Jordie Barrett into touch.
Matt Fagerson 7 – Solid, dependable and rarely puts a foot wrong, even playing the majority of the game at 6 rather than 8.
Replacements 6 – Jack Dempsey looked the part with his extended appearance but a yellow card blotted his copy book. Scrum noticeably started to go backwards when the subs arrived and New Zealand captured the momentum.

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