New Zealand finally making progress?
REACTION: New Zealand coach Ian Foster hailed a hard-fought 31-23 win over Scotland on Sunday as a sign of his side’s progress over the past 12 months.
The All Blacks lost their final two year-end internationals of 2021 away to Ireland and France, which sparked a run of six Test defeats in eight games that put Foster’s job in serious peril.
New Zealand has bounced back with six wins on the spin since to win the Rugby Championship and make a perfect start to the year-end following victories in Japan and Wales.
But they were made to look ordinary for long spells by Scotland at Murrayfield as the visitors failed to score a point for 55 minutes after an early burst.
Samisoni Taukei’aho and Mark Telea crossed inside the first seven minutes as the visitors raced into a 14-0 lead.
Scotland levelled in an eventful first quarter of an hour thanks to a penalty try forced by Stuart Hogg’s chip and chase and an intercept try from Darcy Graham.
Three Finn Russell penalties put Scotland nine points in front, but New Zealand was kept in the game by the Scots being penalised three times when metres out from the try line.
Foster hailed the impact of his bench in the final 20 minutes, but is also hoping there were signs of maturity in the closing stages that will be needed heading into a World Cup next year.
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“You are trained for scenarios like this,” said Foster.
“In the last two Tests of the year [in 2021] where we tripped up, we were in contention in the last 20 minutes but didn’t have the composure, so that shows development.”
New Zealand capitalised on a yellow card for Jack Dempsey for a deliberate knock-on as Scott Barrett muscled his way over the line before Telea rounded off a dream debut with a second try.
The Kiwis will aim to complete a quartet of victories from their northern hemisphere tour when they face England at Twickenham next weekend.
“Against a Scottish team we think is on the rise, this was one we were a little bit nervous about,” added Foster.
“Delighted to come away with a good win. I thought the work done by the leaders on the park and bench gave us a lot of composure in the last 20 minutes.”
For Scotland it was another case of glorious failure as they have still not beaten New Zealand in 32 meetings.
Despite the positives of a much-improved performance from their opening two year-end internationals against Australia and Fiji, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend could not hide the disappointment of failing to get over the line.
“We don’t get to play New Zealand very often,” said Townsend. “That’s the biggest lead we’ll have had against New Zealand in our history and we couldn’t get the win.”
The defeat was even tougher to take for the Scots given the chances they passed up.
Graham had a second try ruled out for stepping into touch, while the hosts were also held up on the line three times.
“We scored 23-0 during a 55-minute period,” added Townsend. “With those margins you have to kick on and win and we didn’t do that today.
“We’re nine points up and we control a fair bit of our own destiny in that last 20 minutes.”