Scotland v New Zealand: heartbreak again for Finn Russell inspired hosts

Hosts led by nine points with 20 minutes to go but couldn't withstand late All Blacks fightback

New Zealand’s Anton Lienert-Brown saw yellow and conceded a penalty try for tackling Scotland's Stuart Hogg without the ball. Image: © Craig Watson -
New Zealand’s Anton Lienert-Brown saw yellow and conceded a penalty try for tackling Scotland's Stuart Hogg without the ball. Image: © Craig Watson -

Scotland 23

New Zealand 31

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

A MATCH that had it all. Sublime skill, breathtaking tries, controversy, heroism, non-stop entertainment and a sadly predictable ending. With 20 minutes to go, it really did look like Scotland could finally put to bed their 117 year – 31-match – wait for a win over these opponents, but ultimately the winning grit of the All Blacks, and perhaps the weight of history, proved too much for the Scots as they were reeled back in, before a late try for debuting winger Mark Talea killed off the contest.

There will be plenty of frustration in the post-match debrief, but there should be a serious dollop of pride at how the team tackled this challenge. There were giants all over the park for Scotland. Not least returning talisman Finn Russell who gave a maestro performance, but it would be wrong to focus on just the stand-off.

In the final reckoning, however, this was another one that got away. Scotland coughed up penalties on New Zealand’s line at least three times, whereas their opponents were ruthless at getting the job done when they got within striking distance. A nine point lead with less than 20 minutes to go has to be defendable against the best teams in the world, but when the momentum swung away from the home team there was no gas left in the tank for a counter-punch.

This weekend’s Premiership reports:

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Premiership: Heriot’s Blues prevail over GHA in classic contest

Premiership: Hawick march on with Border derby win over Jed-Forest

Premiership: Marr claim morale-boosting win over Edinburgh Accies

Premiership: second-half surge takes Selkirk to victory at Glasgow Hawks

It started ominously for the home team. Jamie Ritchie gave away an early offside penalty which allowed New Zealand to kick to the corner, and the All Blacks were playing advantage for another penalty against the Scottish captain for jumping across the line-out when Scott Barrett muscled over with almost indecent ease from the back of the maul, giving the visitors the lead with just two minutes 23 seconds on the clock.

Scotland rallied briefly, but were soon scrambling backwards again when Ardie Savea pick-pocketed the under-supported Matt Fagerson as he set up a ruck. Beauden Barrett released Caleb Clarke on the left with a neat grubber, and after the powerful winger had made good ground Barrett again put boot to ball with a diagonal into acres of space on the right, which handed debut boyTelea as easy a first try in international rugby as he could have hoped for.

Scotland desperately needed a shot of inspiration, and they got it from Stuart Hogg – still a national treasure even if he clearly fails unfairly maligned at times – who burst through midfield off a Russell-esque inside pass from Matt Fagerson, chipped the last man and was winning the race to touch-down when he was shoved off the ball by Anton Lienart-Brown. It was referred to the TMO, but there was no doubt that it had to be a penalty-try and yellow-card.

Tails up, Scotland were straight back on the attack. Duhan van der Merwe almost burst clear on the left but was brought down by a desperate tap tackle, and was then stripped of possession. However, as the visitors tried to capitalise on this turnover ball they shot themselves in the foot, with Darcy Graham picking out David Havili‘s loose pass to Beauden Barrett, then out-pacing Clarke and tip-toeing past Jordie Barrett on his way to the line, setting up Russell’s conversion. Suddenly it was all-square.

Scotland had the All Blacks flustered and when Hogg kicked to corner for Hamish Watson to bundle Jordie Barrett into touch 10 yards from the visiting line, it set up a promising attacking platform, but a ruck penalty conceded meant the home team came away empty handed.

Murrayfield rose as one to hail another spectacular try just before the half hour, when Russell wrapped round Sione Tuipulotu then fired a zinger of a flat pass to Hogg, who then fed Graham over in the corner, but the little winger’s foot brushed the touchline in the act of scoring.

So, play was called back for a New Zealand side-entry at the maul which started that move, and after working play in-field the All Blacks conceded a ruck-penalty right in front of the posts, which allowed Russell to kick his side into the lead.

Now it was New Zealand’s turn to battle back, and it took some real grit in defence from the home side to keep hold of their slender lead, including an excellent man-and-ball tackle by Hogg to kill an overlap on the left. Then Finlay Christie did his birth-country a favour by fumbling at the base of a ruck five yards from the Scots line, and a collapsing penalty at the resultant scrum allowed the hosts to finish the half back on the front foot.

The team in blue (or predominantly pink on this occasion) came close to scoring again when they set up camp on New Zealand’s line during the last few minutes of the half, but Savea got over Fraser Brown and the ball to win a crucial penalty on his own line, bringing the curtain down on a breathtaking 40 minutes of rugby.


Scotland needed to start the second half well, and they did, earning an offside penalty three minutes after the resumption, which Russell turned into three easy points.

Was it too early to start believing? The Murrayfield crowd certainly had their hopes up, and the home players responded with another ramp up in intensity.

An early engagement penalty saw Russell prod Scotland nine points ahead with 27 minutes to go, putting the hosts beyond a converted try of being caught.

The All Blacks were clearly not enjoying themselves at this point, conceding penalties like they were going out of fashion, questioning everything, making far more basic mistakes than you would ever expect from a team wearing that iconic jersey, and seemingly unable to refocus on the task in hand.

Slowly but surely, however, they began to build their way back into the contest, and when Rory Sutherland was called for collapsing a scrum it was well within range for Jordie Barrett to bring it back to a six-point game. It was the All Blacks’ first points in 54 minutes and they could now see a way out of the hole they were in.

They were soon back on the Scottish line and Jack Dempsey saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on which was not very well disguised as an attempted tackle. New Zealand opted for the scrum from which they muscled over again, with Scott Barrett claiming his second, and brother Jordie’s conversion edged the visitors into a one-point lead with 14 minute to go.

The killer blow came on 74 minutes when the New Zealand juggernaut rolled into the strike zone with a relentlessness that we had not seen since the opening minutes, leading to Telea handing off Graham to touch down in the corner. Jordie Barrett slotted the conversion amid a cacophony of embarrassing booing from the stands, as if pretend indignation would persuade referee Murphy that control of the ball had been lost in the act of scoring. It patently had not been.

It was a flat end to a thrilling match for Scotland’s fans, but plenty more positives and negatives for Gregor Townsend‘s men following a couple of worryingly uninspired performances in their opening two matches of this Autumn series.

Argentina next week is a big, big game, with a score to settle from the summer and the opportunity to finish this international window with a 50 percent as opposed to 25 percent success rate.


Teams –

Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris (M Bennett 64), S Tuipulotu (B Kinghorn 77), D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price (B White 64); P Schoeman (R Sutherland 56-64), F Brown (E Ashman 71), Z Fagerson (W Nel 58), R Gray, G Gilchrist (J Gray 64), J Ritchie, H Watson (J Dempsey 17), M Fagerson.

New Zealand (v Scotland at Murrayfield, Sunday @ 2.15pm): J Barrett; M Telea, A Lienart-Brown, D Havili (R Ioane. 53), C Clarke; B Barrett (S Perofeta 79), F Christie (T Perenara 56); E De Groot (G Bower 51), S Taukei’aho (C Taylor 56), N Laulala (F Newell 51), S Whitelock, S Barrett (T Vaa’i 71), A Ioane (S Frizell 59), D Papali’i, A Savea.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Penalty Try, Graham; Con: Russell; Pen: Russell 3.

New Zealand: Tries: S Barrett 2, Talea 2; Cons: J Barrett 4; Pen: J Barrett,

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 7-14; 12-14; 14-14; 17-14 (h-t) 20-14; 23-14; 23-17; 23-22; 23-24, 23-29; 23-31.


Yellow cards –

Scotland: Dempsey (64mins)

New Zealand: Leinart-Brown (11mins)


Attendance: 67,144

Scotland v New Zealand: Finlay and Gregor Christie ready for Edinburgh reunion

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. On-field leadership & control yet again found wanting in the later stages, within an otherwise strong Scotland performance.

  2. The names might change but the story stays the same…poor game management in the 2nd half, errors & ill-discipline, and the usual post-game comments from Townsend.

    We had them in the pocket at halftime. Between 55th & 65th minute we let them play and let them in with our own hands.

    The Russell drama doesn’t help and the consistency just is not there. Frustrated does not cover it. The last time I felt this frustrated was 2007 when they gubbed us 0-40 in our back yard.

  3. It’s a lack of patience that kills us in the ‘red zone’. You have more time on the opposition try line than anywhere else on the pitch. Nine times out of ten the ref will be looking for defensive indiscretions. There seems a desperation to score and score quickly, rather than bide our time. It is criminal to get into the 22 and leave with nothing, whether it be a try or 3 points. It is one of the things that marks us apart from the top 5 teams. That said, some brilliant endeavour and good attacking rugby.

  4. I thought I might take the time to read the comments after an engrossing game of rugby, but I suspect it’ll be the typical Scottish fatalism.

    After all, No Finnie, Toonie bad. Looking at all the other Autumn internation results and selections, apparently Scotland has the only self-defeating fan base.

    With a better mentality the game could have been won. Wales and Ireland manage it better than us. We’re our own harshest critics.

  5. I can’t say here what I said after the first 6 minutes or so, but managed not to resist looking for the cricket highlights. It was a spirited performance, not least by the Murrayfield PA system, which seemed loud enough to drown out the misfiring commentary. Perhaps Andrew Cotter couldn’t hear himself think, as he seemed to lose track of the scrums.
    As we lost, there must be ifs, buts and maybes, including if Hogg had passed just a little earlier, might Graham have had sufficient room to maybe grab that try. If Darge had been fit, might he have made the impact Watson doesn’t seem to these days? Could we have asked any more of our two starting second rows, who were both immense?
    It’s a pity we couldn’t pull it off, as this is not a great All Blacks squad and we did have our chances, but they’re dynamic enough in the loose to punch holes and gain ground in a ruthless and relentless fashion that makes them hard to stop at times.
    Never mind, it was great entertainment for most of the 80 minutes and those leaving the stadium with blood pouring from their PA-ruptured eardrums must be hoping the Argentinians will suffer next weekend.

    • “managed not to resist looking for the cricket highlights.”

      Apologies for this nonsense, I didn’t turn to the cricket.

  6. Forgive me for not joining in the gushing plaudits at yet another defeat against a part NZ B team. However although the intensity increased in relative terms from previous humdrum performances the same old failings resurfaced to derail what could have been a comfortable victory. How many times are our forwards going to piss a scoring opportunity down the pan with headless ineffective individual thrusts at the line to get turned over. Why has this not been addressed by this coaching team as it has been a constant weakness over the years.Ireland would have been out of sight by 10 minutes into the second half. Yes the lineout was superb so that is a plus. However one swallow doesn’t make a summer and this group are going nowhere under the current leadership group. Time for CHANGE.

    • Fully agree mate.

      How can Scotland go about getting a fan-base transplant?

      I can’t disagree that we messed up 3 or 4 great opportunities within 5 metres.

      Do you ever watch the Wales or Ireland games? I might be biased but I find those teams boring as hell. Boring to the point I don’t want to watch their games. With Scotland, they’re an entertaining team and I happen to be Scottish.

      There does seem to be a lot of experienced and enlightened rugby minds around these parts, and perhaps they have currency in calling for a new coach. For me, I see a small Scottish rugby community and a lot of sweetie wife nonsense in the media that sweeps our nation. Paid attention to Finn’s face, he was a pro throughout.

  7. The match report abobe ommits the turning point of the game just before the 60th minutes, where Hogg was stopped inches short of the try line and for the umpteenth time we conceded a turnover penalty.
    The ABs chose to hoof to upfield, Hogg knocked it on, and we never recovered.

    Small, tiny margins. The likes of which have been plaguing us for the last 20 odd years.

    Should Hogg have flipped a pass instead of going for the line himself? What would have happened if he’d gathered the ball instead of knocking on?

    How did we manage to butcher 4 blatant chances, inches from the try line?

    Will we ever have a better chance to beat New Zealand?

    Supporting Scotland is truly death by a thousand cuts.

    • Agree, so many people are saying Hoggs great game but those mistakes you mention and a fend off for last try he actually wasnt that great and moments like that cost tests.
      Same with the pedestal for your five eight Finn Russell, he played average and did nothing spectacular that 10 other international first fives arent doing, poor guy is not a saviour for scotland, you must be playing bad in six nations if you think he is the answer..emotion & pride dont win tests. This was not a full strength AB team so Scotland you had your chance and for a while I thought this was your day..congratulations on a great game though

  8. Terrible start and missed chances for tries came back to haunt but Finn transformed the team and crowd. We had a varied and threatening attack. Such a shame we couldn’t pull further ahead. Hope to see us build on this next week and a new coach take us into the six nations.

  9. A tremendous effort all around and then I thought as the whistle went, they nearly did it and wouldn’t that have been great for Doddy to witness our first win against them.
    That somewhat put things in perspective.
    But he witnessed a tremendous effort especially as we gave them a 14 point start, but we didn’t fold the real difference for me was Perenara.
    However on reflection once the fervor of the game was over my thoughts went back to Doddy his family and friends.

    • He made a difference but to me it was the AB front row replacements coupled with the yellow card that gave the AB’s a platform to finally work from.

      • Good points well made and if I had my mind on the critique at the time perhaps it would have reflected your view. I wonder what we are in for next week, can we retain the intensity [apart from the first 6 minutes] it would be a sign of improvement if we could, lots of comments about consistency of selection and performance that perhaps makes that a forlorn hope.

  10. The lineout was outstanding, took this phase to a different level. Quick, inventive and competitive, so hard to do against the AB’s.

  11. What happened with Darcy with a couple of minutes to go … was he tripped? Wouldn’t have changed the result, but might have put a better spin on it.

    Amazon replay coverage lacks all the post match stuff which is annoying.

    My other question was re Dempsey’s yellow. From the Australia match, I thought it was no yellow if no try was def going to be scored and it wasn’t .. that decision could well have cost us the game …. ??

  12. Great effort.
    I think if we played the all blacks more than once every 5 years we’d eventually beat them.
    2 observations stand out.
    1) If we’d converted one of several opportunities we created in the 3rd quarter we probably would’ve gain the momentum and confidence to tough out the inevitable fight back.
    They looked stretched whenever we went wide but anytime we got in their 22 we reverted to pick and drive, could we have gone wider?

    2) The ABs got back into the game because their ball carriers and breakdown work is a bit more powerful and accurate than ours.
    I don’t think it’s a huge difference, but it was big enough to enable them to make metres, exit pressure situations and get the quick ball that eventually forced a yellow card and made space for their backs to win it.

    • Some good points there.

      We are excellent at spreading the ball out wide when attacking from anywhere outside the opposition 22 and beyond.

      As soon as we get close to the line, we revert to the one dimensional pick and go which was so slow and predictable today, leading inevitably to a turnover penalty.

      We just didn’t seem to learn. Work needs done on the decision making when the line is close.

  13. Big change in intensity when replacements started to appear. All Blacks raised their game while Scottish bench seemed to disrupt the team. Great effort after a disastrous first 6 minutes bur as has been said we need to be more clinical and come away with points in the red zone. The last minute of first half was crying out for a drop goal. In third quarter Black’s were rocking and there to be taken.

  14. A vast improvement on previous games and Russell held his team together with intelligent playmaking and spot on goal kicking that was previously missing. I have some optimism for games to come,

  15. The three goal line penalties agin’ us when in the ascendancy and driving forward were hard to take and cost us dearly. Huge missed opportunity, but we’re well used to that!
    Very well played, boys. You deserved a better outcome.

  16. Gutted, thought we would manage it, but alas no. Think the Finn at 10 debate is settled. Maybe the Harris at 13 also settled. Great games from Graham and VDM ( possibly his best Scottish game). The rest of the guys played their hearts out, but maybe the front row should have all gone off at 55-60 they looked tired.
    Think we left 3 tries out there but then when do we not, think the game would have been done if Graham’s disallowed try has stood. Still we wait , but at least we did way better than Wales.

    • “Think the Finn at 10 debate is settled”

      Was it ever not? To any sentient human being at least.

      That’s not to say that Townsend will never be stupid enough to drop Russell again.

      • Any debate about Russell was settled today – Townsend needs to reflect on his ability to take these players forward – they have plateaued under his stewardship,

  17. That close…again, but no coconut!So frustrating!!! Can’t fault the team, it’s endeavour, skill and sheer grit! No AB team is poor just slightly more better than most other teams in the world.
    Could have been so much worse…well done lads!!!

  18. Gotta give credit here.
    I know we didn’t win, but my goodness we gave the AB’s a right old Scottish scare.
    We are never going to reach the AB’s level of consistently scoring points, whenever they get a sniff of the line. We gave them something to think about, they had to scrap for that win.
    The points deficit is not really reflective of the Scotland performance, and suspect the AB’s will reflect on a smash & grab performance at Murrayfield 🤷‍♂️
    Credit given, but sadly a real opportunity missed?

    A huge change in momentum was evident when the AB’s emptied the bench, we do not possess that strength in depth.

    Finally, a really mature performance from you know who? I wonder if he’ll start against Argentina 🤔 😀

  19. Breath taking match. And a bit more composure from us and we might have held on but not to be.

    The players must take enormous pride in that display. After 10 mins I thought we were in for a complete pumping.

    Debrief should be interesting.

  20. First and foremost- great effort and performance, by the whole team really and I didn’t see that coming after last two weeks. White line fever cost us as Alistair says…. Three tries went begging, and ultimately that is the difference between good teams and the best – getting used to winning helps in those circumstances.

    So – Secondly – why can’t we get up for all games like that, and be more clinical especially against lesser opposition and build that winning momentum? A stop to the endless tinkering and consistency of selection would certainly help. Something that the team management need to sort out or be sorted themselves!

    Looking forward to next week, should be a good game if we turn out the same level of performance.

  21. Gutsy performance after an awful start. Gave them 14 points due to a few basic errors – giving away a ruck penalty from the backs, kick to corner – try too easy. Thereafter they played great rugby for 60 minutes, the forwards were a lot more abrasive and the backs looked threatening. particularly Darcy. Really should have been further ahead at half time. We had 2 or 3 moments when we were camped on their line but failed to score and in fact gave way penalties. This is the area as Alistair says the we need to be more clinical in to win these games.

    Another great chance at the start of the 2nd half so we really could have won this match – no doubt. But we didn’t so overall won that got away. The AB;s probably weren’t at their best but they still manage to win these games and as the game went on you always felt it was coming.

  22. Great effort from the players. White line fever cost us. Particularly that one just before half time. Not going to blame any individuals for that, but we surely need to focus on that as it is just killing us – same v Wales two years ago at Murrayfield.


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