Scotland 22 New Zealand 51: Lessons learned from Murrayfield
Scotland 22 New Zealand 51: James Thompson looks at the key talking points as the Kiwis ease to an emphatic victory
Scotland should take heart from this defeat
Despite the loss and shipping over 50 points at home, Scotland showed glimpses of promise in a battling display. Scotland head coach Andy Robinson must be immensely frustrated with his team after a hugely inconsistent 2012 so far. They endured an awful Six Nation’s campaign, culminating in taking home the wooden spoon but then went on to defeat Australia away on their summer tour. It’s clear that they can compete at the highest level but they need to find their consistency to do so. On Sunday, both sides of Scotland’s game were on show as they scored three tries against the world champions but were, on occasion, torn to shreds for not getting the basics right with missed tackles and ill-discipline. With winger Tim Visser scoring twice, they now have a genuine threat in their back-line and can seek to vary their game. The Scottish forwards, missing influential prop Euan Murray as he doesn’t play on Sundays due to religious beliefs, fronted up magnificently and the coaches would have been pleased with their outstanding work in the loose when they kept the game tight. Special mentions must go to starting props Geoff Cross and Ryan Grant who were immense throughout and Cross scored a close-range try his performance deserved.
The rise and rise of Visser
When Matt Scott intercepted a Dan Carter pass, the one man who Scottish fans wanted on his shoulder was Dutch-born winger Visser. Fortunately for them he had read the game perfectly and was able to cross the try line for the first of his two tries. Visser only qualified for the Scottish side this year on the residency rule and made his debut against Fiji scoring twice. He stated his intention to play for the nation last year and after finishing the top try scorer in the Pro12 league for the last three seasons, Andy Robinson must have been itching to select him. While some players find the jump between domestic and international rugby too big, Visser has made a blistering start. New Zealand are the yardstick for which all teams and individuals are measured against and his two opportunistic scores highlighted his ability. At 6ft 4ins and over 17 stone, he has all the physical attributes to be a success in a Scottish shirt and his incisive running and ability to read the game means he has the mental capability to be Scotland’s offensive weapon. The hosts haven’t had a player such as Visser for a number of years and his presence allows them to vary their game and not just rely on their forwards to grind their way to victory. He has come a long way from being the Dutchman given a chance at Newcastle and if his form continues he could well have a chance to represent the Lions next summer.
New Zealand’s star duo showed their quality
New Zealand made 10 changes from their last game against Australia and showed their strength in depth as they looked comfortable throughout. They opted to leave out starters such as Kieran Reid, Ma’a Nonu and Aaron Smith, although they did select captain Richie McCaw and star man Dan Carter. While McCaw was at his best, making a continuous nuisance of himself at the breakdown and generally slowing down the Scottish attack, it was the performance of Dan Carter that really stood out. The fly-half was at his sublime best, creating havoc in the loose with his sidesteps and dummies while his kicking from the tee was exemplary bar one miss. He set up three of the six New Zealand tries and his cross-field kick for Julian Savea’s first try was a flash of genius from a man at the top of his game. The All Blacks look to play a high tempo game and Carter’s ability to read the game and act so quickly made him a constant threat. He knew when to back himself and when to pass the ball down the line and brought the rest of the team in to the game time and time again. It remains a great shame that he wasn’t able to compete in the World Cup last year due to injury but he showed he is back to his best with a man-of-the-match performance.
New Zealand streets ahead of the rest of the world
When New Zealand won the World Cup last October, it allowed the team to alleviate the burden of expectation from their demanding fans. Typically, New Zealand always seemed to peak between World Cups and fall short when it really mattered but ominously they now look a better squad than the one who claimed victory last year. Any team that can welcome back a player of Dan Carter’s quality will obviously be improved but the way they play the game is streets ahead of their competition. New Zealand’s advantage is that their domestic teams are set up the same way as the national squad, so when a new player is selected he knows exactly how the team will play. Against Scotland, they maintained a high tempo, securing fast ball from the breakdown and only committing men when absolutely necessary. The speed they had simply left Scotland floundering and their third try by Cory Jane was a result of slick handling with the All Blacks always looking to offload in the tackle. They will be aiming to secure a grand slam this Autumn against the home nations and while the remaining three should prove sterner tests, none should be able to live with this All Black vintage.