New Zealand started their quest for the Grand Slam with a 32-6 victory over a disjointed Scotland.
For all their passion, Scotland had neither the skill nor tactical intelligence to defeat an efficient All Blacks unit. Make no mistake, Graham Henry’s second stringers were far from impressive, but they still had enough class to easily negotiate the Scottish challenge.
For the hosts there were moments that had the Murrayfield faithful off their seats, Chris Paterson’s break in the second minute and Ross Ford’s powerful surge just before half time amongst those. But they needed sustained fire and not stuttering brilliance to seriously trouble the Blacks.
The closest they came to bashing through the Black wall was in the 36th minute, when they set up camp on the 5m line. Yet they managed to butcher that opportunity, despite the Blacks having been reduced to 14 men – Anthony Boric binned for cynical play in the red zone.
Scotland were made to feed off scraps for the majority of the match as a result of being dominated at the contact point and breakdown. Even without their ground level general, Richie McCaw, for most of the Test, the Blacks bossed the rucks – pounding the Scots in contact and hounding the ball carrier when he hit the deck.
Their first try came thanks to a superbly weighted Stephen Donald crosskick to Anthony Tuitavake, but their second came as a direct result of Scotland’s inability to protect the ball in contact.
Boric robbed Scotland centre Nick de Luca and the ball was shifted wide to Richard Kahui who stabbed through a grubber. The ball bobbled in the Scotland 5m area and was eventually scooped up by Piri Weepu, who crossed the chalk with two Scots riding on his back.
Stephen Donald shanked the conversion attempt, but at 18-3 Scotland knew they had to front if they were to avoid a whipping. They responded well, building up patiently through phases but lacked the composure when it mattered most – a plethora of handling errors, powder puff ruck cleans and poor option taking thwarting their attempts to drag themselves back into the Test.
Paterson kicked a penalty to draw within 12 (18-6) but woeful work gifted Richard Kahui a try just after the break. Corey Jane launched a bomb which Scotland allowed to bounce and Kahui gratefully collected and sprinted home.
As Scotland’s desperation grew, so their backline attack became more lateral and unstructured. Against a side as defensively organised as the Blacks, that strategy was never going to reap the rewards they sought.
Highlights were few and far between in the second half but Dan Carter did make an appearance off the bench – at scrumhalf! Boric profited from some good individual play by Donald to round off a decent if not polished team performance.
On the evidence of tonight’s showing, the Springboks have little to worry about ahead of their Test against Scotland on Saturday.
Scotland - Penalty: Chris Paterson (2)
New Zealand - Try: Anthony Tuitavake, Piri Weepu, Richard Kahui, Anthony Boric. Conversion: Stephen Donald (2), Dan Carter. Penalty: Stephen Donald (2)