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'Good signs of growth': How the All Blacks beat Scotland

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

After a mixed international season, coach Ian Foster believes the All Blacks showed “good signs of growth” during their hard-fought 31-23 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.

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While some performances this year have created unwanted headlines, including historic losses at home to Ireland and Argentina, the All Blacks may have changed their game.

The All Blacks kicked-off their Northern Tour last year with convincing wins over the United States, Wales and Italy.

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But for a squad and nation with Rugby World Cup ambitions, the two most important matches of their end-of-season tour were always going to be against Ireland and France – and the All Blacks lost both.

Those two matches showed that the All Blacks weren’t on the right track.

While those two nations are widely considered to be two of the favourites for rugby’s main event, the sport is ultimately an 80-minute game and the All Blacks couldn’t stay in the fight when it counted.

Speaking after New Zealand’s thrilling eight-point win over Scotland, coach Ian Foster said the team showed a new level of composure in Edinburgh.

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“They were accumulating those points through pressure and forcing us into a little bit of lack of discipline which was annoying cause we had to make sure we stopped that,” Foster told reporters.

“You train for scenarios likes this. I think if you go back the last 12 months on the last two Tests of the year where we tripped up in north.

“Both those Tests we were in contention at the start of the last quarter but perhaps didn’t show the composure that we showed today. I think that shows some good signs of growth.”

The All Blacks were the favourites going into the crunch clash at Murrayfield, and lived up to that hype early-on the match after racing out to an early 14-nil lead.

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But Scotland showed their desire, passion and composure themselves, as they scored the next 17-points to take a lead into the half-time break.

While the All Blacks had their backs against the wall going into the final quarter, tries to Scott Barrett and a second to Mark Telea saw New Zealand secure the win inside the final 10-minutes – and ultimately avoid becoming the first All Blacks team to lose to Scotland.

Captain Sam Whitelock highlighted ill-discipline as an issue for the All Blacks, after conceding 13 penalties during the match.

“We just cleaned up our discipline. All of a sudden we were getting penalties ourselves,” Whitelock said.

“I thought our game drivers put us in the right area and all of a sudden we had an opportunity to carry close to the line. Scott actually scored a good try.

“I just thought all of a sudden we’re in the right areas verses giving away a penalty; Finn (Russell) keeps kicking to the corner, all of sudden giving away another lineout penalty, kicking to the corner again, taking points.

“I thought that was probably the swing of the game but not probably one specific moment.”

Reminiscent of the All Blacks when they were considered the world’s best rugby team, the impact off the bench was key for the men in black.

TJ Perenara played one of his best matches in the coveted black jersey during his first Test of the year, while Codie Taylor was another shining light.

Foster said he was “really pleased” with how these players came on and made a difference for the All Blacks.

“We made a few changes earlier because we felt we needed to change the pictures a little bit and felt that Scotland had a roll on and we needed to try a couple of different things,” he said.

“The likes of Rieko (Ioane) came in and I thought he was a lot more direct and forceful with his carry in the midfield.

“I thought Codie (Taylor) was outstanding when he came off the bench and TJ, for his first Test of the year, he’s been out of the squad, come in and I thought that was as good as he’s played for us for quite a long time.

“We’re delighted with that.”

The All Blacks still have one more match to play during their Northern Tour, and it might just be their most exciting challenge yet less than a year out from the World Cup.

New Zealand are set to take on England in a blockbuster at Twickenham before their 2022 season comes to an end.

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