Scotland V New Zealand
Scotland, unrelenting from minute one to 80, gave a performance of immense hunger and desire but still could not land the decisive blow, to unseat the number one team in the world.
BT Murrayfield rocked with pride and there was drama aplenty, not least when New Zealand were twice reduced to 14 men inside the last quarter.
Ultimately, the class of Beauden Barrett shone like a beacon for New Zealand, but the extent of the graft from Scotland’s captain John Barclay and the dazzling cavalier approach of the Scotland back three were truly stirring.
Mistakes in the first-half by Scotland when the visitors were rattled will be analysed closely and the old saw about doing the basics well did come to mind.
The welter of emotion around former Scotland lock Doddie Weir’s delivery of the match ball had scarcely subsided when New Zealand kicked off.
Scotland enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, once again embracing a high tempo game and from the second penalty awarded to the hosts, Finn Russell was on target with his first kick at goal (3-0, 6 mins).
A sweet touch-finder from Stuart Hogg took Scotland to within five metres of New Zealand’s line and although possession was garnered at the front of the lineout by NZ and cleared to safety, Scotland were soon lining up a chance of more points.
It stemmed from Tommy Seymour’s adept policing of a stray Huw Jones pass and then fiercely combative work by John Barclay at the breakdown. Russell, however, miscued from 45 metres.
Scotland’s tackle engagement so far was equally abrasive and from a penalty to touch and a Jonny Gray lineout catch, New Zealand again infringed.
Ambition, as Scotland again went to the touchline, but after improvisation around the front and some strong carries, a pass was spilled and New Zealand could escape.
New Zealand’s first sustained attack saw Beauden Barrett try to find space on the open side of a ruck but Jones’ thumping tackle earned Scotland a scrum feed.
Luke Hamilton was introduced for Hamish Watson as the openside flanker made his way somewhat gingerly to the tunnel with a back injury.
Back on the field, Hogg’s high ball take on the run was derailed by a no-arms collision from Waisake Naholo. After prolonged deliberation, referee Carley deemed a penalty was the sole punishment.
Scotland continued to press with Lee Jones on a cut finding space and then Hamilton careered forward menacingly. Sadly, a knock-on from Zander Fagerson ended the sequence.
Barrett eventually levelled from 27 metres after Barclay was penalised at a breakdown (3-3, 38 mins).
Russell misfired with a drop-goal attempt as the half ended with the teams locked level.
Half-time: Scotland 3 New Zealand 3
Simon Berghan started the second half at tight-head as Fagerson was concussed and Scotland had an early scrum in New Zealand’s 22 from which Alex Dunbar surged and Stuart McInally rumbled only for the penalty to go the way of the visitors.
New Zealand then used the power of Rieko Ioane to forge an opening with support from Codie Taylor. The hooker then popped up again as ball was worked first right then left to gather a looping pass to score in the corner. The conversion went astray from Barrett (3-8, 45 mins).
Hamilton, who had made a first-rate start to his international career, departed in the medical buggy with a knee injury to be replaced by George Turner, who slotted in at hooker with McInally reverting to his back-row berth of old.
The first scrum with the new formation saw Scotland penalised, New Zealand set up a rolling maul from the subsequent lineout and when Sonny Bill Williams threaded a grubber kick through the Scottish defence, Damian McKenzie raced on to touch down. Barrett converted. (3-15, 50 mins)
As the game entered the final quarter, Scotland at last found reward for the territory they had enjoyed. It was a team try, Seymour all but finding a way through heavy traffic, before New Zealand transgressions were eventually over-powering for Mr Carley who sin-binned Sam Cane.
Scotland kept pounding away, George Turner was high tackled (another penalty advantage was signaled) before Jonny Gray powered over for his third try for Scotland. Russell converted majestically. (10-15, 62 mins).
From a scrum, after the crowd had found full voice with a stirring rendition of Loch Lomond, New Zealand weaved magic behind the scrum for Barrett to stride away for their third try, which he converted himself (10-22, 68 mins)
Scotland continued to attack and Crockett – more Davy than Wyatt with a hint of the wild west in his obstruction on Ali Price – was next to be binned as Cane returned.
Scotland endured a frustrating next five minutes as attacks were thwarted but a try to raise the temperature once more occurred as Hogg kicked ahead, Seymour gathered and Huw Jones’ blistering pace took him home. Russell converted (17-22, 78mins)
In one final thrust, Hogg blazed past Perenara but Barrett did just enough to catch him. An amazing finish but Scotland’s 112-year wait continues.
Final Score: Scotland 17 New Zealand 22
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Finn Russell, Ali Price (all Glasgow Warriors); Darryl Marfo, Stuart McInally (both Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), John Barclay (Scarlets) CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh Rugby).Subs: George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) for Hamilton 49 mins, Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) for Marfo 58 mins, Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby) for Fagerson 40 mins, Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) for Toolis 58 mins, Luke Hamilton (Leicester Tigers) for Watson 27 mins, Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) for Price 75 mins, Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) for Dunbar 46 mins, Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) for Jones 73 mins.
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie; Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kane Hames, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Vaea Fifita, Sam Cane, Kieran Read CAPTAIN Subs: Nathan Harris for Taylor 74 mins; Wyatt Crockett for Hames 50 mins Ofa Tu’ungafasi for Laulala 59 mins, Liam Squire for Romano 46 mins, Matt Todd for?, T J Perenara for Smith 63 mins, Lima Sopoaga for ?, Anton Lienert-Brown for Crotty 59-63 mins for Williams 73.
Referee: Matt Carley (England).
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Ian Davies (Wales).
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
Eden Mill Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)