GREGOR TOWNSEND looked like he had found a penny but lost a pound after this [Sunday] afternoon’s loss to New Zealand at Murrayfield. He was proud of the way his players performed but frustrated that the team failed to kill their opponents off when they had the chance.
“I feel mainly disappointment,” he said. “It is galling we don’t get to play New Zealand every couple of years like we used to. It has been five years. That will be the biggest lead we have had over New Zealand in our history and we didn’t win.
“A couple of times we got over the try line. The one in the first half was really good play by them. Ardie Savea’s jackal, he timed that well, but we should have shifted the ball a bit wider. The one in the second half was bad luck. The way the offload went to Ali Price the defence got the advantage.
“There was also Darcy Graham’s one which was millimetres away from a try as well [the winger scored with a spectacular dive but his foot brushed the touchline]. Those three occasions you increase your lead. We scored 23 points to nil during a 50 minute period. With those margins you have to kick on and win. You have to see out the win and we did not do that.
“What is disappointing is that you don’t get to play New Zealand often and we have never beaten them in our history so when you play like that and get a lead you feel you should win, and we didn’t.”
It was a remarkable see-saw match, with Scotland falling 14-points behind inside the first 10 minutes, then dominating up to the hour mark, before eventually being reeled back in and ultimately killed off during the final quarter.
Townsend has a reputation for talking up his team’s performance in defeat, but on this occasion his sense of pride was entirely legitimate, even if it was heavily tainted with a sense of regret.
“[I was pleased with] the calmness the players showed and how they stuck with what they had worked on this week, playing with energy, showing their skill individually,” he said. “Set-piece wise was outstanding, although there was a crucial scrum call late in the game.
“We were nine point up and controlled a fair bit of our own destiny in those last fifteen minutes. New Zealand were always going to come back into it, they are a very good team, and we allowed them to get better field positions and penalties.
“Our management of when to play and when to kick was excellent. Our chase was outstanding. But we let them back in with a couple of errors. We were not able to get the jackals they did against us and the yellow card [for a deliberate knock-on by Jack Dempsey when it was 23-17 with 16 minutes to play] put us under pressure. Yellow cards lift the opposition and that is when they did damage.
“A lot of the penalties were round the ruck area. You can analyse and say: was it poor play by us, good play by them or bodies in the way?” Townsend added, without offering a conclusion.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster was generous in his praise of his hosts, and quietly satisfied by the patient and efficient way in which his players set about rescuing the game from a tricky position. “We’re delighted to come to Murrayfield on this tour for a game that we’ve always found is extremely difficult – particularly this year against a Scottish team that we think has grown in strength and is on the rise,” he said. “And they’ve shown they’ve been able to win some big Tests the last two years.
“It was one we were a little bit nervous about, so I was delighted to come away with a good win. I’m pleased for many reasons.
“One is the composure shown in the last 20. When you’re away from home against a team that has got their tails up it’s hard to turn that around. And I thought the work done by Sammy [captain Sam Whitelock] and the leaders on the park – and the bench in particular – gave us a lot of composure and enabled us to finish that Test very strong. So it’s a win we’re very proud of.”