Vern Cotter: A lot of positives for Scotland despite All Blacks defeat
Scotland head coach reflects on a spirited 24-16 defeat to world champions at BT Murrayfield
Vern Cotter insisted his Scotland side have a lot of positives to take from their 24-16 defeat to an under-strength New Zealand side.
The Scotland head coach watched his players push the world champions all the way at BT Murrayfield, before they finally came unstuck in the final minutes as the All Blacks closed out the game.
We got close but we didn’t get there so we have to say we are disappointed
It was Scotland’s 28th defeat in 30 matches against New Zealand, but despite being disappointed as their winless run against the All Blacks continues, Cotter was happy at their performance.
“There were a lot of really good things in the game, but also a lot of things we need to improve,” Cotter said.
“That’s the nature of this group—they want to improve. They are young and want to move forward.
“Nobody likes losing and these guys least of all. That is encouraging. Not liking losing is a quality.
“We got close but we didn’t get there so we have to say we are disappointed.
“When you look at the content of what the players did out there, it’s hard for a coach to be unhappy when you see that effort, desire and determination.”
New Zealand-born Cotter named an unchanged starting XV from the one that scored five tries in a 41-31 win over Argentina last week, while his All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen made 13 changes in an experiment head of next year’s Rugby World Cup that had drawn criticism.
Despite the changes, the All Blacks players starting the match had more caps than their opponents, boosted by the inclusion of captain Richie McCaw and return of international rugby’s leading points scorer Dan Carter—both centurions and World Cup winners.
Victor Vito, the number 8 crossed for the opening unconverted try after 10 minutes as he found his way through two Scotland defenders in the corner.
But the Dark Blues—playing in a new limited-lifespan red jersey for the first time—hit back with a second interception try in as many weeks from Tommy Seymour as the Glasgow Warriors winger latched on to a casual pass from McCaw and galloped away with the ball, as Matt Scott and Tim Visser had for the latter’s opening try off an interception against New Zealand two years ago.
Carter, then Colin Slade—his understudy—traded penalty goals with Greig Laidlaw, but the Scotland captain was wide with a kick in the final quarter that would have given the home side a two-point lead, and the All Blacks eventually punished the error with a late try from man of the match Jeremy Thrush to seal the win.
In their last two meetings with the All Blacks, Scotland had coughed up more than 50 points on both occasions, and Cotter admitted their defence this time was much better, and allows them to take stock of where they are at as they continue to develop ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“Our defence was excellent,” he added. “Apart from a couple of plays, everybody put their hands up and really led the team.
“I feel for the players. We always knew this game was going to give us things and I think it gave us a lot of positives.
“The review after the Argentina game was really honest—the players really had a good look at themselves. This game gives us another chance to do that having taken on the world’s best.”
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen described the match as the perfect test for his squad players and admitted that Scotland were a nation very much on the up under Cotter, who took charge in the summer.
Cotter, too, admitted that there are plenty of reasons to take positives and praised his team’s character ahead of their final viagogo Autumn Test series match with Tonga in Kilmarnock next week.
“Everybody contributed,” he said. “I think we can gain confidence from the way we vary our game.
“We can attack, we can kick, we use the short side, we use space at the back.
The one thing you can be sure of is that there is character in this side, and that is very important.”