Scotland 23-31 New Zealand
A day of high drama in front of a capacity BT Murrayfield crowd as Scotland passed up a nine point lead going into the final quarter to enable New Zealand to retain their unbeaten record against the hosts.
Scotland came oh so close to adding to a penalty try and a cracking Darcy Graham score with the Hawick-raised winger denied another for a foot in touch, Fraser Brown pinged within millimetres of the try line just before the interval and there was another near miss within sniffing distance in the second-half. Three missed chances underlining international rugby is about tiny margins.
But ultimately New Zealand were just as clinical when they had a man advantage in the second-half as Scotland had been early doors, fighting back from a 0-14 deficit. Anton Lienert-Brown was first to be carded and Jack Dempsey’s departure reversed the fortunes.
An emotional day as Doddie Weir – who continues to fight MND and whose charity has raised millions of pounds to support research and those affected by the awful condition – presented the match ball accompanied by his wife Kathy and sons Hamish, Angus and Ben and six-year-old fundraiser Charlie Mackenzie from the Ross Sutherland club.
Both teams and a packed BT Murrayfield saluted Doddie.
To the action and New Zealand made a lightning start. From a penalty to touch, lineout possession was secured and Samisoni Taukei’aho blitzed Jamie Ritchie’s tackle to dot down. Jordie Barrett converted (0-7, 3 mins).
Hamish Watson had a characteristic tilt into New Zealand territory, but a contact penalty enabled the visitors to clear.
New Zealand struck again as from open play, Jordie Barrett spied Mark Telea in open space out wide and the winger gathered to dot down. The work of Ardie Savea at a breakdown earlier in the move had proved pivotal. Barrett converted his own try (0-14, 7 mins).
Scotland needed a response, and it came from the man who has been the catalyst so often, Stuart Hogg.
A quickly taken lineout won by Pierre Schoeman at the front, a thrust by Sione Tuipulotu in midfield and then Hogg at pace, following up his own kick ahead was ruled to have been obstructed illegally by Anton Lienert-Brown.
After consultation with the TMO, referee Murphy awarded the penalty try and yellow carded the New Zealand centre (7-14, 12 mins).
Watson departed injured to be replaced by Jack Dempsey and Scotland continued to press, only for Ritchie to be denied within a sniff of the try line for a secondary movement.
Into the second quarter and Ritchie made amends with a courageous turnover penalty won in his favour and then some sleight of hand at the tail of a lineout.
In the 29th minute, Graham all but escaped for his second try, but it was ruled out through a foot in touch. An advantage was being played however and back it came for a penalty which Russell landed (17-14, 30 mins).
Scotland withstood a New Zealand attack in which Clarke looked threatening and then successive penalties conceded by the visitors – the first at a scrum inside Scotland’s 22 and then the second at a lineout – enabled Scotland to end the half on the attack.
Van Der Merwe was thwarted on the left after he had gathered a long miss-pass from Russell and then Scotland went through the phases through the pack but Fraser Brown was pinged for holding on.
Half-time: Scotland 17-14 New Zealand
Scotland restarted through Russell and soon had the scoreboard moving anew as Lienert-Brown was caught offside and Russell was on target (20-14, 42 mins).
A high tackle on Graham and then some grand piracy by Dempsey at breakdown saw Scotland edge into the New Zealand 22 only to be repelled from their own high tackle by Matt Fagerson.
But another turnover from Ritchie and quick lineout ball saw Hogg scamper to within one metre but Scotland were again penalised.
New Zealand looked a bit rattled and when Beauden Barrett knocked on, Scotland won a penalty at the subsequent scrum for early engagement and Russell nudged the gap to nine points (23-14, 52 mins).
Into the last quarter and it was Scotland’s turn to be penalised at the scrum and Jordie Barrett goaled (23-17, 62 mins).
Scotland then lost Dempsey to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on and almost at once New Zealand made their advantage count as from scrum possession Scott Barrett thumped over for their third try. Jordie Barrett converted (23-24, 66 mins)
It was gut-wrenching in the final ten minutes when Telea scored a try in the corner which the home crowd certainly thought should at least have been adjudicated formally by the TMO. Of course, Jordie Barrett converted to rub salt into the wounds (23-31, 75 mins).
One that got away sadly.
Full-time: Scotland 23-31 New Zealand
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray (all Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson (all Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).
Subs: Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks) for Brown (70 mins), Rory Sutherland (Ulster) for Schoeman (56-64 mins), W P Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) for Zander Fagerson (58 mins), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) for Gilchrist (64 mins), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) for Watson (17 mins), Ben White (Exeter Chiefs) for Price (64 mins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) for Tuipulotu (77 mins), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby) for Harris (64 mins).
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett; Mark Telea, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Caleb Clarke; Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie; Ethan De Groot, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock CAPTAIN, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’I, Ardie Savea.
Subs: Codie Taylor for Taukei’aho (56 mins), George Bower for De Groot (51 mins), Fletcher Newell for Laulala (51 mins) Tupou Vaa’i for Scott Barrett (70 mins), Shannon Frizell for Akira Ioane (59 mins), T J Perenara for Christie (56 mins), Stephen Perofeta for Beauden Barrett (78 mins), Rieko Ioane for Havili (53 mins).
Yellow-cards: Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand) and Jack Dempsey (Scotland).
Famous Grouse Player of the Match: Dalton Papali’i
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland). Assistant referees: Andrew Brace and Chris Busby (both Ireland). TMO: Tom Foley (England).