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Scotland freeze in face of history as All Blacks claim fightback win

By PA
Scotlands Stuart Hogg reacts at fill time after the Autumn International match at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Picture date: Sunday November 13, 2022. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

Scotland squandered a nine-point lead in the final quarter as they missed out on a first-ever victory over New Zealand in a pulsating autumn Test at BT Murrayfield.

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Gregor Townsend’s side looked on course for a famous triumph when they roared back from an early 14-0 deficit to claim a 23-14 advantage courtesy of a penalty try, a Darcy Graham touchdown and 11 points from the boot of the recalled Finn Russell.

But the All Blacks turned things around in the closing stages with a couple of tries from Scott Barrett and Mark Telea, while Scotland replacement Jack Dempsey was in the sin-bin, enough to secure a 31-23 victory.

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There was an emotional start to proceedings as 52-year-old former Scotland international Doddie Weir, in the throes of his battle with motor neurone disease, made a rare appearance at the national stadium to present the ball before kick-off.

But Scotland – with Weir’s famous yellow and blue tartan adorning the numbers on the back of their purple kits to mark the fifth anniversary of his charity foundation – got off to the worst possible start when Samisoni Taukei’aho seized possession following a lineout and eased his way over the line from close range in the third minute. Jordie Barrett kicked the conversion.

And just four minutes later things got worse for the hosts as debutant Telea ran onto a cross-field kick from Beauden Barrett and burrowed over. Jordie Barrett was again successful in adding the extras.

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At 14-0 down and having failed to lay a glove on the All Blacks, Scotland looked in serious danger of being ripped to shreds but they dug in and found a way back into the game, led by Stuart Hogg.

In the 12th minute, the full-back kicked the ball over the top and scampered after it himself. Just as he looked set to slam it down for a try, Anton Lienert-Brown took him out.

Following a TMO review, a penalty try was awarded and Lienert-Brown was sent to the sin-bin.

Incredibly, the Scots were level three minutes later when Graham intercepted an All Blacks attack near halfway and burst forward to claim a magnificent individual try.

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Russell – back in the team for the first time in eight months after being contentiously left out of the initial squad named for the autumn internationals – kicked the conversion.

The Scots’ tails were up and, after recovering from their chastening start, suddenly they had the All Blacks rattled.

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For all the pressure they enjoyed, Townsend’s team would have been disappointed not to have added a third try before the break, although they did make sure they had a half-time lead to show for their efforts when Russell kicked a 31st-minute penalty following an offside.

The hosts picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, with Russell scoring a second penalty three minutes after the restart.

The Racing 92 fly-half then kept up his perfect kicking record for the day with another penalty in the 54th minute, taking the Scots nine points clear and seemingly on course for their first-ever victory over the All Blacks.

But Jordie Barrett brought New Zealand back into it with their first points since the opening seven minutes when he kicked a penalty in the 63rd minute.

And the momentum of the game continued to turn in favour of the tourists two minutes later when Dempsey was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on following a TMO review.

From the scrum that followed, Scott Barrett forced his way over the line and Jordie Barrett once again made no mistake with the conversion to edge New Zealand back in front.

And the Scots’ hopes of a famous win were effectively ended in the 75th minute when Telea bounded over for his second try of the match, with Jordie Barrett again converting.

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