Scotland just can't get Carter as All Blacks come dressed to kill
Scotland 22 New Zealand 51:Celtic may just have beaten Barcelona but a second Scottish sporting miracle inside a week was always going to be a stretch. New Zealand have not lost to their hosts in 107 years and that sequence never looked like ceasing on a mild Edinburgh afternoon illuminated by a brilliant performance from outhalf Dan Carter.
On this evidence the world champions will end 2012 triumphantly unbeaten and Carter will be the world’s best No10 for as long as he laces up his white boots. Scotland, admittedly, defended woefully at times but mistakes are inevitable when the point of attack switches as irresistibly as it did here. In the second quarter, in particular, the All Blacks’ passing was little short of mesmeric as Carter and friends scored three dagger-sharp tries in seven minutes to kill the game.
Scotland did at least collect their first tries against the All Blacks in seven years, with their Dutch-born wing Tim Visser touching down twice.
Offering Carter and the All Black midfield extra room is the rugby equivalent of giving Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a few extra sticks of dynamite. It is now seven years since an unstoppable Carter took the Lions apart in Wellington with the definitive outhalf display of the modern era but age has not wearied him.
It was ironic, therefore, that Scotland’s opening try came directly from a Carter error, a casual pass going straight to a startled Matt Scott. The inside-centre would have struggled to make it himself but Visser is a born finisher and showed the cover a clean pair of orange-booted heels.
It takes more than an isolated error of judgment, however, to ruffle Carter’s customary poise. Barely six minutes later the All Black playmaker could be found jinking deep into Scottish territory and cleverly putting the classy Israel Dagg over to balance his personal ledger. Good players do not dwell on their mistakes, great ones smoothly click up a couple of gears.
Even the departure of Dagg following a heavy fall failed to disrupt New Zealand to any lasting extent. It was easy to forget they are mixing and matching for the first half of this tour and were missing influential men like Kieran Read, Aaron Smith and Conrad Smith. It made no obvious difference once they began to build a bit of momentum, Julian Savea scored the first of his two tries and a sublime pass from the impressive Tamati Ellison helped work Cory Jane over in the right corner. When Andrew Hore crashed over shortly afterwards, New Zealand were 34-10 up and cruising.
The sin-binning of Adam Thomson briefly stemmed the flow of points, but Visser’s second, from a ruck turnover close to the New Zealand line, it proved a temporary blip. A deft Carter cross-kick in the 62nd minute fell neatly for Savea to score his second and Ben Smith added a sixth five minutes from the end. Carter finished with 21 points and the crowd left sensing they had witnessed something special.