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Scotland push All Blacks all the way

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Lynn McConnell     19 Nov 2017     Getty Images

The All Blacks' usual fourth quarter stamina was crucial, but it wasn't enough to shake a determined Scotland who finished the game with a flourish and the All Blacks defences stretched as they attempted to break their 31-Test duck against New Zealand. Only a desperate tackle by first five-eighths Beauden Barrett on outstanding Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg kept that record intact.

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The All Blacks were required to make twice as many tackles as the home team, but ultimately the Scottish fell down in the skill levels department several times dropping ball at crucial moments.

But they lacked nothing in spirit or intent and they produced one of the most competitive performances in recent history against the side.

The All Blacks were troubled by indiscipine again, twice losing players to yellow cards in the second half.

It was from a scrum move, 67 minutes into the game and with flanker Sam Cane in the sin-bin, that they pulled off the crucial move of the contest. Second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams took the ball at first receiver as Barrett drifted wide.

Williams got an off-load away to fullback Damian McKenzie in the tackle and then McKenzie got the ball to Barrett who loomed in support and he out-paced the defence to give the All Blacks a 22-10 lead.
Scotland came back in frenetic surges at the line and in defending the ball they lost replacement prop Wyatt Crockett for the last 10 minutes of the contest. But his replacement, Kane Hames, came back to blast Scotland at the scrum allowing the All Blacks to clear.

In the 76th minute, Hogg joined the line to slip a kick through for wing Tommy Seymour to claim the ball and feed inside to centre Huw Jones who crossed to ensure a superb finale to a fine Test match.

Tied 3-3 at halftime the All Blacks rebounded from two mistakes at the start of the second half: letting the ball bounce into touch from the kick-off, and then a knock-on from the lineout by flanker Vaea Fifita.

However, lock Sam Whitelock was strong at a breakdown on the line and won a penalty which cleared the pressure.

Then, moments later, Ioane secured the ball at a kick ahead, and put his power to use to break out of tackles and escape Scotland's clutches before linking with hooker Codie Taylor. They carried play into the Scots' 22m and the All Blacks hunger saw the ball controlled and moved around and it was Ioane again in mid-field, who threw a long pass to Taylor out on the left flank and he crossed in the 44th minute.

A scrum penalty allowed Barrett to kick to set up a lineout in the Scots' 22m area and from the breakdown build-up, Williams slipped a grubber kick through and McKenzie weaved his way through defenders to get to the ball first to score in the 50th minute.
Indiscipline within five metres of their line proved costly, firstly for the loss of Cane to the sin-bin for a breakdown infringement, and then from Scotland's tap penalty it was lock Johnny Gray who drove over for Scotland's try in the 61st minute.

Scotland produced the dominant performances in the first half, looking to use the ball at every opportunity with Hogg the most dangerous looking player. However, four key losses of ball denied them reward on the scoreboard. No.8 Cornell du Preez, hooker Stuart McInally and centre Huw Jones all dropped the ball in try-scoring situations while Seymour failed to embarrass New Zealand when a penalty kick missed touch, knocking the ball over the line.

Having had 62 percent of time in the All Blacks half it wasn't the return they might have expected. The All Blacks' defence however, was outstanding and they held Scotland out for long phases including one of 19 phases.

The All Blacks had few scoring opportunities, although they did miss a chance from a second five-metre scrum after Seymour had touched the ball in the field of play before pressing for a 22m drop out. However, after being penalised at the first scrum, Scotland upset New Zealand's ball and turned it over to clear their line.

All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo went close to getting a yellow card for a tackle on Hogg while he was still in the air but it was only a penalty due to extenuating circumstances caused by Scotland halfback Ali Price who changed his line forcing Naholo to change direction and into Hogg's path.

Scorers: Scotland 17 (Johnny Gray, Huw Jones tries; Finn Russell 2 con, pen) New Zealand 22 (Codie Taylor, Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett tries; Barrett 2 con, pen). HT: 3-3