Autumn Nations Series: All Blacks launch late fightback as Scotland miss big chance of famous victory at Murrayfield

All Blacks wing Mark Telea Credit: Alamy
All Blacks wing Mark Telea Credit: Alamy

New Zealand scored 17 unanswered points to claim a 31-23 win over Scotland in an entertaining Autumn Nations Series fixture on Sunday.

A brace of tries on Test debut for Mark Telea followed Samisoni Taukei’aho’s opening score while Scott Barrett also crossed for the All Blacks at Murrayfield.

For Scotland they were awarded a penalty try while Darcy Graham scored, with Finn Russell kicking their remaining 11 points on his return to the starting XV.

The All Blacks, however, will be relieved to come away with the win as an out-of-sorts performance meant they were behind for a large spell of the game.

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There was an emotional start to proceedings as 52-year-old former Scotland international Doddie Weir, in the throes of his battle with motor neurone disease, made a rare appearance at the national stadium to present the ball before kick-off.

But Scotland – with Weir’s famous yellow and blue tartan adorning the numbers on the back of their purple kits to mark the fifth anniversary of his charity foundation – got off to the worst possible start when Taukei’aho seized possession following a lineout and eased his way over the line from close range in the third minute. Jordie Barrett kicked the conversion.

And just four minutes later things got worse for the hosts as debutant Telea ran onto a cross-field kick from Beauden Barrett and burrowed over. Jordie Barrett was again successful in adding the extras.

At 14-0 down and having failed to lay a glove on the All Blacks, Scotland looked in serious danger of being ripped to shreds but they dug in and found a way back into the game, led by Stuart Hogg.

In the 12th minute, the full-back kicked the ball over the top and scampered after it himself. Just as he looked set to slam it down for a try, Anton Lienert-Brown took him out.

Following a TMO review, a penalty try was awarded and Lienert-Brown was sent to the sin-bin.

Incredibly, the Scots were level three minutes later when Graham intercepted an All Blacks attack near halfway and burst forward to claim a magnificent individual try.

Russell – back in the team for the first time in eight months after being contentiously left out of the initial squad named for the autumn internationals – kicked the conversion.

The Scots’ tails were up and, after recovering from their chastening start, suddenly they had the All Blacks rattled.

For all the pressure they enjoyed, Gregor Townsend’s team would have been disappointed not to have added a third try before the break, although they did make sure they had a half-time lead to show for their efforts when Russell kicked a 31st-minute penalty following an offside.

The hosts picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, with Russell scoring a second penalty three minutes after the restart.

The Racing 92 fly-half then kept up his perfect kicking record for the day with another penalty in the 54th minute, taking the Scots nine points clear and seemingly on course for their first-ever victory over the All Blacks.

But Jordie Barrett brought New Zealand back into it with their first points since the opening seven minutes when he kicked a penalty in the 63rd minute.

And the momentum of the game continued to turn in favour of the tourists two minutes later when Jack Dempsey was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on following a TMO review.

From the scrum that followed, Scott Barrett forced his way over the line and Jordie Barrett once again made no mistake with the conversion to edge New Zealand back in front.

And the Scots’ hopes of a famous win were effectively ended in the 75th minute when Telea bounded over for his second try of the match, with Jordie Barrett again converting.

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