New Zealand’s All Blacks survive Scotland scare

Charles Piutau

New Zealand’s All Blacks were made to work for their 16-24 victory over a much improved Scotland at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Scotland and New Zealand have played each other 30 times since 1905 and the All Blacks are undefeated in all matches. In the 30 Tests the teams have drawn twice.

Scotland had the chance to take the lead in the 70th minute but Greg Laidlaw missed the kick and then four minutes later Jeremy Thrush scored the All Blacks second try and Colin Slade converted to give New Zealand some breathing space.

The All Blacks opened the scoring with an unconverted Victor Vito try, Scotland
responding as Tommy Seymour nabbed an intercept try, converted by skipper Greg
Laidlaw.

Dan Carter then hit three penalties to Laidlaw’s one and the Scot was then
eventually successful with two more in the second-half.

There was an unfamiliar look to the All Blacks’ line-up, with captaining Richie
McCaw playing his first international at blindside flanker and fourth-choice
fly-half Colin Slade stationed on the right wing. Coach Steve Hansen made 13
changes in all from the XV that started the 24-21 victory against England at
Twickenham the previous week.

Still, McCaw was collecting his 136th cap and Dan Carter his 102nd. It was
Carter’s first start for his country for a day short of a year.

The Crusaders outside-half played 30 minutes as a second-half replacement in
New Zealand’s 74-6 win against the United States in Chicago on November 1 and
performed water boy duties at Twickenham but was returning to the All Black
number 10 jersey for the first time since November 16 last year, when his 100th
cap against England.

Carter, who missed the 2014 Rugby Championship after suffering a bone fracture
in his right leg in the Super Rugby Final in August, had the opportunity to
get the scoreboard ticking when Scotland lock Richie Gray was penalised for
failing to release the ball in the tackle in the eighth minute.

The two-time IRB Player of the Year pulled his effort wide but two minutes
later New Zealand had the opening score in the bag. Big Number Eight brushed
aside an attempted tackle from Alex Dunbar before holding off Stuart Hogg and
Greig Laidlaw and dotting the ball down in the left corner.

Carter was off target with his conversion attempt from tight to the touchline
and it was an error from the other cap centurion in the All Blacks’ ranks, McCaw,
that handed a try to Scotland in the 12th minute. In attempting to find Vito,
the New Zealand captain merely threw a pass to Scotland wing Tommy Seymour,
who had an unopposed run to the line.

Laidlaw landed the conversion, furnishing Scotland with a 7-5 lead that they
managed to hold on to until the 27th minute.

After Scotland fly half Finn Russell had an attempted clearing kick charged
down, the All Blacks were held up in the left corner but had the consolation
of a penalty that Carter duly converted to give the visitors an 8-7 advantage.

Five minutes later Carter made it 11-7 with a second penalty success and, after
Laidlaw replied with a penalty at the other end , Carter nailed his third just
before the interval to give New Zealand a 14-10 half-time lead.

It was the closest Scotland had been to the All Blacks at the halfway stage
of a contest since 1991 and they attacked from the off in the second period.
The result was a 45th minute penalty that Laidlaw landed to pull the gap back
to 14-13.

The All Blacks rang the changes in the 56th minute, Carter making way for Julian
Savea, with Slade switching from the right wing to outside half, and Sonny Bill
Williams and Ben Franks also being released from bench duty.

Slade banged over a 65th minute penalty to give New Zealand a 17-13 cushion,
but two minute

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