November 11, 2012
All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter continues to set the standard on the Test match stage © Getty Images
New Zealand showed how beautifully simple but brutally efficient rugby can be in despatching a gutsy but limited Scotland at Murrayfield.
The world champions have a wealth of talent at their disposal and boast countless players who possess the kind of skills that bring opposing fans to their feet. Those undoubted talents were on display in Edinburgh with fly-half Dan Carter the magician-in-chief during just the latest playmaking masterclass offered by the insanely talented No.10.
But while such delights as the game-breaking off load remains a key part of their armoury, although perhaps not as evident since Sonny Bill Williams' departure, it was their mastery of the delightfully elementary that stood out most of all.
The simple 'take and give' that sees you receive a pass before handing it on to a team-mate on your shoulder is a fundamental drill practiced at every level of the game from minis to the international stage. The aim is to shift the ball to where space can be exploited and the All Blacks offered a textbook example of just that in the lead up to their third try - finished off by winger Cory Jane.
No frills, just the basics executed brilliantly. As the best in any profession tend to do, the All Blacks made it appear easy but rest assured it is the result of a resolute commitment to training. At first glance the score may appear to have been forged and finished within the backs but take a closer look and you will see some deft handling from at least a couple of forwards and that is another enviable trait of this side - they can all play.
Forward and backs alike are masters of the basics and they are all committed to the cause. You are just as likely to see lock Sam Whitelock pop up in a sweeping attacking move as you are to find Carter putting his body on the line at ruck time. No other side in the world is able to call on such strength in depth and such quality throughout their squad - hence their ranking, reputation and bulging trophy cabinet.
It was a shame that their brilliant performance was soured by an act of stupidity from flanker Adam Thomson. It is amazing that a squad that sets such high standards for itself in everything it does and constantly raises the bar in terms of mental strength and agility can produce such thick-headedness. With Scotland flanker Al Strokosch pinned at the bottom of a ruck and unable to move, Thomson chose to rake his foot across his head in full sight of the assistant referee. Some may argue that it was not a stamp given the lack of force used but that is beside the point - he had no need to act so thuggishly and was lucky to escape with a yellow card. Thomson can expect a mouthful from head coach Steve Hansen before packing his bags with the near-certain citing and resulting suspension set to bring an end to his tour.
But he will not be the only target of Hansen's ire. The All Blacks have not conceded three tries since their defeat to Australia in the 2011 Tri-Nations decider over a year ago and this much-changed side will pay for their shortcomings in the week ahead and Italy, Wales and England should brace for the fallout as you can rest assured that the tourists will kick on from this showing.
Unlike Six Nations rivals Wales, who will struggle to find positives in the wake of their defeat at the hands of southern hemisphere opposition in the form of Argentina, the Scots needn't dread the video analysis in the coming days.
The home side's alarmingly porous defence may have leaked over a half a century of points and warrant drastic attention but they asked questions of the All Blacks with ball in hand. The world champions have not been rocked on their heels and forced to stand under their posts in such a manner for some time and for that the Scots deserves credit.
And in winger Tom Visser they appear to have the long-needed answer to their relative impotency in attack. The Dutch-born speedster, who qualified on residency grounds earlier this year, has wasted little time in making his mark on the Test match stage with his brace taking his tally to four in his three international appearances. He clearly has the skills and the instincts to thrive among the elite and his latest eye-catching display will not be lost on British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland who was present to watch the game. It is up to Scotland to build on his success and rally around in support rather than expect him to drag them along for the ride.
But if Scotland are to re-emerge as a major force on the European stage then they will need to address other parts of their game - most notably their charity in defence. The All Blacks were gifted so much time and space they didn't know what to do with it. Players like Carter can make you pay with just an inch of space so you are simply asking for trouble if you stand off him and his cohorts like the Scottish defence did for much of this game.
Ultimately they are unable to call on as many gears as the All Blacks and that kind of deficiency cannot be remedied overnight. There was clearly expectation that the Scots could perhaps make history with a first ever victory over the All Blacks but they remain some way from achieving parity let alone superiority.
As a result their hopes of securing an IRB world rankings boost ahead of the 2015 World Cup draw next month look remote. The Scots are currently ranked 9th and must upset South Africa next weekend if they are to have any chance of climbing into the top eight and claiming a preferential seeding for the draw.
Eighth-placed Argentina's upset of the higher-ranked Wales has not made their task any easier and they find themselves staring at a painfully familiar prospect. Should they not improve their ranking then they will end up in a World Cup pool alongside one of the top four sides - New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or France - and one of those sides in the second group of seeds - England, Wales, Argentina and Ireland. The last time they suffered that fate was at the 2011 tournament where they failed to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in World Cup history.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September