New Zealand cruise into semi-finals
October 24, 1999
Cameron Murray shackles Jonah Lomu of New Zealand
© Getty Images
Scotland may have comprehensivlely lost the war going down 30-18 to an All Black side which barely ever raised its game above cruise control, but in wing Cammie Murray they had a man who came oh so close to winning his own personal battle aginst the runaway freight train they call Jonah Lomu.
Thirteen times the All Blacks spun the ball out to the gargantuan wing; twelve times Murray and his mates - especially outstanding openside Budge Pountey - shunted the 'Auckland Express' into the buffers.
As a cameo in a quarter-final contest which the All Blacks had sewn up in a devastating opening 20 minute spell, it was compelling stuff but did little to alter the inevitable progression of the kiwis to a semi-final meeting with France at Twickenham next weekend.
The All Blacks may have ended the evening in a stupor, but they shot out of the blocks like a team on a mission. By the sixteenth minute an Andrew Mehrtens penalty, a Tana Umaga try and Jeff Wilson try, had put the Blacks 17-0 up and put them out of sight.
This was by no means the irresistable force that we have come to expect from John Hart's men. After the opening blitz, in which the home side seemed completely overawed, by their illustrious guests, the Scots put in a defensive performance of huge guts to keep the New Zealanders at bay for large parts of the remaining hour.
In fact, Scotland even started to make inroads into the All Blacks lead. On twenty minutes Kenny Logan struck the first blow for the Scots when the All Blacks ventured off-side (yet again). The referee Ed Morrison finally saw fit to award a penatly, which kept the lead to 17-3.
With victory assured , pragamtism, was the order of the day. Mehrtens kicked antother penalty on 24 minutes after a bizarre off-side position by the erratic Morrison, and after that the Blacks seemed content to play percentage rugby. Only a late Umaga try on the stoke of half-time after centre Alama Ieremia made a bullocking break down the centre of the park increased the margin to 25-3 at the interval.
The expected massacre in the second-half simply did not materialise. With the injured Mehrtens not there to guide them, the Blacks were disrupted continully by the Scots, who mixed some vigorous rucking with a fair splattering of mistakes, an example which the New Zealanders unusually emulated.
But within seven minutes of the re-start, the Scots drew blood again when Gregor Townsend dropped a goal after a series of frenzied drives by his forwards.
Lomu's try on sixty minutes redressed the balance (as well as showing Murray you can't give the outside to a man that big and that fast). Just over ten minutes later the Scots put together their best passage of play and their forwards, with a little help from stocky centre Jamie Mayer launched drive after drive at the New Zealand blindside. It was entirely fitting that it should be Poutney, whose hard work in the loose did so much to frustrate the Kiwis and whose dynamism with the ball in hand gained countless hard yards for the Scots, who dived through a melee of players from close range for Scotland's first try.
Although Scotland never looked like overturning the Blacks' advantage, it was to their eternal credit that they plugged away in the driving rain, bringing the 60,000 crowd to their feet with a performance of worthy credit. Two minutes into injury time Cammie Murray drew the biggest roar of the afternoon when he followed up Leslie's break from half-way to score a hugely popular consolation try. Scotland may not have come close to winning this contest, but they can at least take a moral victory of sorts.
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