League: Scotland brave but outclassed

By Michael Brown of APNZ in Leeds

Frank Pritchard of New Zealand (C) in action with Sam Barlow of Scotland during the Rugby League World Cup Quarter Final match between New Zealand and Scotland. Photo / Getty Images.
Frank Pritchard of New Zealand (C) in action with Sam Barlow of Scotland during the Rugby League World Cup Quarter Final match between New Zealand and Scotland. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand 40
Scotland 4

A number of Scottish players got tattoos of a thistle this week to illustrate their commitment to the cause but it was the Kiwis who left their opponents stinging.

New Zealand ran away with a comfortable 40-4 win to set up a likely semifinal with England at Wembley next weekend. They were after a more complete performance than their previous efforts and came a lot closer.

Scotland lived up to their moniker _ to a man they were brave _ and were better than the scoreline suggested but they were outclassed.

The Kiwis were powerful as well as elusive and scored some terrific tries, but their completions were still too low (68 per cent) and they gave away too many penalties (eight) for their liking.

The biggest concern, however, was seeing Sonny Bill Williams lie prone on the turf in the second minute after getting his head stuck in an awkward position when carrying the ball up.

It looked like he got it pinned close to his chest before it squeezed out.

He played most of the first half, laying on tries for Bryson Goodwin and Shaun Johnson but was also unchracteristically beaten by the impressive Danny Brough.

He looked OK but the Kiwis very much need him if they are to retain the title they won in 2008 and wasn't risked in the second spell as Simon Mannering moved into the second-row.

The Kiwis needed to soak up considerable pressure in the opening 10 minutes from a committed Scottish side and it wsa something coach Stephen Kearney welcomed.

"For me, that's what we are after,'' he said. ``To be challenged like that, that's what we looked for. We anticipated that. They have two clever halves. I thought the lads took up the challenge of defending their tryline really well.''

They then set about putting on some points of their own as they slowly started to take control and scored five tries in the first half to lead 26-0.

The big men up the middle made some good ground but the most impressive were wingers Manu Vatuvei and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for very different reasons.

Vatuvei was a handful for his barnstorming runs and in one from his own 10m line the only one who could stop him was Shaun Johnson when the halfback ran an unfortunate obstruction.

There's so much to like about Tuivasa-Sheck. He can dance, dart and he's surprisingly strong but there are few who can finish off a try like him. His gather and hop and step before a 90m burst early in the second half was brilliant.

He ran for a mammomth 265m _ Vatuvei registered a paltry 169m _ scored two tries and registered 10 tackle breaks and three linebreaks in a man of the match performance.

Vatuvei has been struggling with a knee injury but he strained his calf this morning, coming came off with 13 minutes remaining, and it's only hoped it's not too bad because the Kiwis have two matchwinners on their wings.

Scotland rarely threatened in the second spell as New Zealand tightened the screws but crossed for a popular try to Alex Hurst in the 65th minute.

Most of their best moments came through Brough, who wouldn't look out of place in the NRL, and he laid on the with an excellent cutout pass. The reigning UK Super League Man of Steel epitomises nuggety but is also skilful and the Kiws found his re-starts extremely difficult to deal with.

"It's disappointing to be knocked out but there's no disgrace being beaten by the Kiwis,'' Scotland coach Steve McCormack said. ``They are a fantastic team. If I wasn't the Scotland coach, I probably would have stood up and clapped some of the tries they scored. They were awesome.''

The Kiwis should feel good about this win because there were no major lapses like previous performances but the real tournament is just about to start.

New Zealand 40 (Bryson Goodwin 2, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2, Manu Vatuvei, Jesse Bromwich, Frank Pritchard, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 4 gls) Scotland 4 (Alex Hurst try). HT: 26-0.

- APNZ

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