Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: A breathtaking and bewildering All Blacks performance

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Adam Thompson of the All Blacks competes with Richie Gray of Scotland in the lineout. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Thompson of the All Blacks competes with Richie Gray of Scotland in the lineout. Photo / Getty Images

An artillery gun belted off a couple of blasts amongst the rousing range of pre-match activities at Murrayfield.

Even if the operator had lowered the sights and slipped one of the shots into the midst of the All Blacks, it's doubtful whether he could have done enough damage to inflict their first loss to Scotland.

For the opening quarter it looked as though they had taken some shrapnel as they played with a ragged edge and frenetic pattern.

They looked like a group who had been caged up too long, a group who had spent too much time waiting for the test, too much time thinking about what impact they wanted to make.

Errors which were once in a season stuff appeared, the most experienced men in the side like captain Richie McCaw and his deputy Daniel Carter made mistakes.

Carter threw a sloppy intercept, McCaw shelled the ball and was bowled out of the way in defence. They were not on their own but they were the senior men.

They showed that when they began the recovery.

Almost as soon as he gifted his intercept try, Carter cut Scotland open with a curving run away from a lineout. He began to skip and run, dummy and deceive.

As he says, when he feels confident he takes the ball to the line and as that started to happen the All Blacks began to find some more pattern, rhythm and potency.

Three withering tries towards the end of the first half were stunning pieces of work and left most of the host supporters in raptures.

Wings Julian Savea and Cory Jane were the beneficiaries as the All Blacks swept the ball back and forth across Murrayfield, using their layers and depth of runners to confuse the Scottish defenders.

It was the sort of rugby the All Blacks want to play in every test and they were blessed that Edinburgh laid on perfect conditions for them to exhibit their cracking style of rugby.

It was cool but fine and the surface at Murrayfield looked in great nick.

It had to be for the All Blacks niftiest try of the half when Piri Weepu and Jane made inroads down the tiniest of blindsides, an area which would have struggled to accommodate massive Scots lock Richie Gray.

After their pas de deux, they shifted the ball to hooker Andrew Hore who swivelled and bounced his way to the line.

Scotland bought into the action, using the ball with more elan than they have previously.

At times they did resort to type with their preferred choice of attack being up and unders and rumbles from close range but Scotland were very adept in those phases and put the All Backs under serious heat, especially in the close-quarter combat.

Tough defenders like McCaw and Owen Franks were bounced on their backsides and it took a great deal of grit and technique to halt some of the Scots' rampages.

The All Blacks managed that in performance which was both breathtaking and bewildering and a great landscape for the coaching staff to work with this week.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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