JON CARDINELLI reports on the All Blacks’ effortless 51-22 victory against Scotland on Sunday.
New Zealand operated at a low gear for much of this contest. There were times when they stepped up the intensity and produced some magical attacking touches, where they exhibited the high level of execution that we’ve come to expect from the best team on the planet. But for the most part, they didn’t control the game by playing for territory, and their defence wasn’t up to its usual high standards.
Perhaps the inconsistency was down to the changes made by coach Steve Hansen for this particular fixture. Perhaps it was down to motivation. Indeed, while the All Blacks played the game at breakneck speed, they weren’t at their combative best. Then again, they didn’t need to be.
Dan Carter made an early error to give the Scottish optimists hope. In the build up, Scotland had spoken about rush defence tactics keeping the New Zealanders at bay. This paid dividends early on, with centre Matt Scott intercepting a pass made by Carter. Scott then found Tim Visser in support, and the Flying Dutchman finished what would be the first of his two tries.
But the Scots failed to maintain that defensive pressure. Carter made amends for that no-look pass soon after by making two linebreaks in a subsequent movement. The Scots were punished for standing off the All Blacks flyhalf, as Carter’s second break led to the simplest of tries for Israel Dagg.
While the All Blacks underperformed in certain areas, Carter was in sublime form in front of goal. He finished the match with figures of nine from 10, and a personal tally of 21 points.
Carter also had a hand in several of the All Blacks’ tries. The visitors played the game at a furious pace, making easy ground and linebreaks through the inside channels.
Once the initial break was made, men like Carter were key in identifying the space, and across the board, the All Blacks’ handling skills and finishing was excellent.
Scotland No 7 Ross Rennie was injured early in the match, and the hosts battled to compete at the breakdown thereafter. The absence of a genuine openside meant that Scotland had nobody to slow down the All Blacks’ ruck recycle. This in turn made it difficult for the Scots’ line defence, as there was not much time to realign.
The All Blacks conceded three tries in this fixture, and this will annoy the coaching staff. Scotland did well to take three chances. If they had been more clinical, they may have scored another when All Blacks No 6 Adam Thomson was in the sin bin if they had only secured a lineout throw on the opposition try-line. As it transpired, they only succeeded in handing possession back to the All Blacks.
It’s frightening to think about how much further damage a full strength All Blacks’ side, or indeed one operating at full intensity, may have inflicted on Scotland. The All Blacks cruised to a 51-22 victory on Sunday without producing their most polished display. It’s a simple truth that highlights the gulf in quality between the world champions and the Six Nations stragglers.