Anything you can do...
November 13, 2010
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams stretches the Scotland defence © Getty Images
England's elation at sweeping Australia aside at Twickenham is set to be short-lived.
The pleasure they take from raising the bar against the Wallabies is sure to be tempered once they have a chance to re-live the All Blacks' annihilation of Scotland at Murrayfield. For England are not the only side to have kicked on in the space of seven days.
Just as England re-emerged as genuine title contenders ahead of next year's World Cup the All Blacks opted to re-write the formbook with a classy display that reminds us all that when firing on all cylinders they quite simply play a different game to all their main rivals.
England may well point to the quality of the opposition, having beaten an Australia side who are the only team to have beaten New Zealand this season, and they would have a point. In contrast, Scotland were a shadow of the side that accounted for Ireland and claimed a historic series victory over Argentina earlier this summer. It is five months since they wrapped up that famous triumph over the Pumas and despite the realtively early point in the domestic season their leading charges were carrying a fair amount of ring rust. But let that take too much away from an All Blacks display that was brutally clinical.
Fireworks greeted the sides onto the pitch and but for an early penalty that was as good as it got for Scotland fans. New Zealand struck early and then again in a game-defining burst that set the tone for the contest and sapped the energy from the crowd that had threatened to inspire great things from the hosts. Two more tries swiftly followed and the game as a contest was all but over with the home crowd reduced to cheering minor victories at the lineout or scrum or more often than not their side's ability to snuff out the near-constant danger.
New Zealand were marshalled with aplomb by fly-half Dan Carter whose 50-minute contribution bordered on perfection. Granted time and space he tormented the Scots with ball in hand and was faultless with the boot. Oh how the Scots must long for a playmaker in his mould - but they have reason for hope going by 20-year-old Ruaridh Jackson's Test bow as a replacement. Carter's withdrawal in the early stages of the second-half - followed by a host of other changes - must have been sickening for Scotland boss Andy Robinson; his side considered such a non-threat that key players can be rested for the challenges that lie ahead. Robinson's main concern, as it has been for some time for his side, is finding a game-breaking attacking edge.
Carter's 15-point haul including an incredible 29th Test try and also took him to within five points of England's Jonny Wilkinson at the top of the all-time points scorers list. With Wilkinson sidelined the record is surely his against Ireland next weekend and no other player in the world - except maybe Richie McCaw - is worthy of the accolades coming his way.
However, Carter - and record-equalling veterans Mils Muliaina and McCaw - had to play second fiddle to rising star Sonny Bill Williams. They should get used to it. The former rugby league international continues to astound fans and pundits - or those at least who failed to register his obvious talent during his stint in France with Toulon. Remember this was only his second Test appearance. His ability to draw tacklers and off load is phenomenal - a trait honed in the 13-man code but increasingly influential in union. He loomed as a constant threat against the Scots and had a hand in several scores but was modest to a fault. Be warned - he is still learning the game and the best is yet to come.
The only problem facing head coach Graham Henry is where and when to deploy arguably his most potent threat. He has seen time in the No.12 and No.13 shirts already with a rumoured switch to flanker in the pipeline but wherever he plays he will be a hugely influential figure. He will be the star of next year's World Cup - guaranteed.
As it stands, Scotland have yet to register a victory over New Zealand in almost 105 years of trying and going by this latest reverse they may be better served by targeting a try and going from there - although don't get your hopes up - that feat has evaded them in each of their last three meetings.
The All Blacks head to Dublin tomorrow and Ireland should be worried. Meanwhile, there is no respite for the Scots - resurgent world champions South Africa loom next weekend.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.
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