Dream debut: New Zealand wing Mark Telea (left) scored two tries on his international debut
Edinburgh (AFP) - Scotland passed up their best chance yet to beat New Zealand according to coach Gregor Townsend after the All Blacks bounced back from a nine-point deficit to win 31-23 at Murrayfield.
The Kiwis remain unbeaten in 32 meetings between the sides and looked set to cruise to victory when they raced into a 14-0 lead after just seven minutes thanks to tries from Samisoni Taukei’aho and Mark Telea.
But the visitors failed to add another point for 55 minutes as Scotland took control, with Finn Russell pulling the strings on his return after being controversially left out by Gregor Townsend for Scotland’s first two Autumn internationals against Australia and Fiji.
Scotland hit back to level inside 15 minutes as Stuart Hogg forced a penalty try before Darcy Graham intercepted an errant pass to cross in the corner and a trio of Russell penalties put the hosts in command.
But New Zealand were much more clinical when their chances came in the final 20 minutes as Scott Barrett muscled over before Telea rounded off a dream debut with his second try of the match.
“You don’t get to play New Zealand very often and that’s the best opportunity in our history we’ve had to beat them,” said Townsend.
“There’s so much to be proud of but we didn’t see it through. It was a show of resilience after going 14-0 down to one of the best teams in the world, but we didn’t get the win.”
There were emotional scenes at a sold out Murrayfield before kick-off as former Scottish international Doddie Weir, who is suffering from motor neurone disease, was introduced to the crowd alongside his family.
The crowd were quickly quietened as New Zealand looked set to pick up where the left off in thrashing Wales 55-23 last weekend.
Taukei’aho barrelled over the line for the opening try after just two minutes.
Telea did not take long to make his mark on the international stage as he had acres of space to latch onto Jordie Barrett’s perfectly judged cross-field kick.
Hogg hit out at his critics for concentrating too much on his appearance rather than his rugby this week and the Exeter full-back produced the moment of magic needed to get Murrayfield off their feet.
A penalty try was awarded and a yellow card shown to Anton Lienert-Brown for a tackle off the ball after Hogg looked favourite to collect his chip and chase into the in-goal area.
Scotland took just two minutes to level thanks to another Kiwi error as Graham intercepted David Havili’s intended pass to Beauden Barrett and just had the speed to evade Caleb Clarke and Jordie Barrett to the line.
Russell’s vision and Hogg’s speed teed up Graham to cross over once more in the corner, but the Edinburgh wing had just placed one foot into touch.
- Scotland’s missed chances -
Scotland were left to rue more missed opportunities either side of half-time as they were penalised three times by Irish referee Frank Murphy on the New Zealand line.
But Russell’s goal-kicking was flawless as three penalties put Scotland 23-14 ahead.
New Zealand had barely been inside the Scottish 22 for the first 20 minutes of the second half, but Ian Foster’s replacements had the desired effect for the three-time world champions.
“I thought Scotland were tremendous, they put us under a lot of pressure,” said Foster. “Our bench was strong and that strength and composure was important.”
Jordie Barrett reduced the arrears to six with a penalty before it was Scotland’s turn to cope with 14 men for 10 minutes.
Finn Russell shone on his return to the Scotland side
Jack Dempsey was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on with New Zealand hammering on the door beneath the Scottish posts.
The All Blacks wasted no time in making the man advantage count as Scott Barrett muscled his way over the line.
His brother Jordie added the extras and with 14 minutes left, New Zealand had their first lead since the blistering opening quarter of an hour.
Telea then made sure of a sixth consecutive win for New Zealand since losing six times in eight Tests either side of the turn of the year.