AUCKLAND, NZ – Insomniacs rejoice! The All Blacks and Scotland may have just provided you with a cure for your ailment with a game at Murrayfield that’d put anyone to sleep if they had to watch a replay of it. If you’e a rugby fan however, I strongly advise against that course of action, as I sat through the whole thing so you don’t have to.
All Blacks 24 (Victor Vito, Jeremy Thrush tries, Dan Carter 3 pen, Colin Slade con, pen) Scotland 16 (Tommy Seymour try, Greig Laidlaw con, 3 pen)
If there’s one thing Murrayfield does better than any other stadium, it would have to be the pre-match killing of the lights for when the teams run on the field. This whipped the already fired up crowd of 66,000 into even more of a frenzy, but sadly for them when the lights came on it revealed the puke-worthy Scottish change jerseys. Honestly, these awful orange numbers wouldn’t have looked out of place in a pro-cycling team and perhaps the garish nature of them put the All Blacks off their game. After a stodgy first 10 minutes Victor Vito burst into life with an admittedly brilliant try that wound back the clock to when he was starring on the NZ Sevens team. After receiving a poor pass he gassed 50 metres down the left wing to score in the corner. OK, so things were starting to go according to plan for the All Blacks, especially when straight after the Scots kicked off they opened up a big overlap down the right hand side of the field. Except Richie McCaw of all people passed it to a guy in orange, not black. Tommy Seymour’s interception was an easy stroll to the line and was such a surprise the Scottish staff weren’t even in a position to bring out the kicking tee for the conversion, meaning that Greig Laidlaw had to drop-kick it. After that brief burst of excitement the game went flat fast. Dan Carter was playing very much like a man who has barely been on a rugby field this year and the All Black backs had little momentum to work with. He and Laidlaw traded penalties and the Scots would’ve been feeling pretty good going into the sheds only down by 1 point.
The home side held it’s own in the second half as well and were rewarded with more opportunities for Laidlaw to keep them in touch. Carter left the field for the All Blacks 15 minutes into the spell and Colin Slade, who had started on the wing, moved into first five and immediately started making a difference with some more assured play. However, he couldn’t quite unleash the scoring potential of the All Black backs (despite the fact that Julian Savea and Sonny Bill Williams had entered the fray) and suddenly Laidlaw found himself with a chance to put Scotland ahead with 10 minutes to play. Again the home crowd were disappointed as his kick drifted away and with it any chance they had off pulling off an unlikely upset. For the remainder of the game the All Blacks held onto the ball with ruthless efficiency and were rewarded with a barge over try by Jeremy Thrush with a couple of minutes remaining.
Don’t be fooled, this game wasn’t actually as exciting as the scoreline suggests. The All Blacks were massively off their game, mainly due to the fact that they had made a massive number of changes to the side that beat England. As mentioned earlier, Carter was nowhere near his best, but he wasn’t helped by a poor performance from TJ Perenara inside him. He, in turn, could probably point the finger at his forwards, who got shoved around by their more enthusiastic Scottish counterparts. The only bright spot in the pack was Thrush, whose dedication to doing the dirty work must be going a long way to inking his name in the squad permanently. Hooker James Parsons, who made his debut, looks likely to be no more a tricky trivia question in a pub quiz sports round in years to come.
For the Scots, Richie and Jonny Gray threw themselves into everything and were definitely not afraid of their more fancied opponents. The home forwards benefitted greatly from a very liberal interpretation of the ruck by referee Roman Poite, but even more so by the All Blacks inability to man up and smash them out of the way. However, they simply lacked the skill and instinct to turn the ball they had into anything meaningful and it says a lot that the only try they scored was an intercept that would’ve been seven points at the other end if Seymour hadn’t picked it off. Laidlaw will be spewing over the missed kick with 10 to go, but it probably would’ve been a short-lived lead given the All Blacks ability to close games out (see: Aviva Stadium last year, Suncorp Stadium last month).
Man of the match: Unless Brodie Retallick or Sam Whitelock suffer a serious injury, Jeremy Thrush will spend most of his All Black career watching them from the bench. But his form on this tour so far has meant he’d be the first cab off the rank if the unthinkable did happen.
Try of the match: Victor Vito’s effort was almost cruel as it gave everyone watching hope that there’d be many highlights like that to follow. Like Thrush, he’s been very impressive on this tour so far.
Idiot of the match: Whoever was in charge of bringing the tee out for Scotland. What were they doing? Taking a bathroom break maybe?
One last test in 2014 next weekend for the All Blacks and you’ll excuse me if I’m not exactly jumping out of my skin in anticipation due to Wales’s awful effort against Fiji on the weekend. I’ll have a preview of that game later in the week.
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