They survived, but only just..10:53:00, Mon 20 Nov 2017 Jim Kayes
It seems an incongruous thing to suggest but coach Steve Hansen is keen to convince All Blacks fans they’re beatable.
In the aftermath of the tense 22-17 win against Scotland in Edinburgh Hansen said New Zealanders had to accept the rugby landscape is changing. We’ve seen that with Ireland who beat the All Blacks last year and South Africa last week. It was evident when Scotland beat Australia in June. And there was proof too when the Scots ran the All Blacks incredibly close at Murrayfield.
Beauden Barrett saved what would have been a draw and possibly a defeat when he bundled fullback Stuart Hogg into touch on full time. A converted try would have given Scotland their first ever win against the All Blacks.
It’s a slow sea change that’s been helped, in part, but the flood of Kiwis coaching around the world. Just look at Scotland who had Vern Cotter as their head coach and now include Dave Rennie as coach of Glasgow.
Ireland, of course, are coached by Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland remains in charge of Wales, who play the All Blacks this weekend. The All Blacks are still rugby’s dominant force - the team everyone wants to beat and few do - but they are by no means unbeatable. Australia showed that last month and Scotland, but for a Barrett push into touch, could have too.
"Do they understand [Scotland] is a good team?,” Hansen asked of All Blacks fans. “Some will and some won't. The people that understand the game will know that Scotland played particularly well, and they'll know they've beaten Australia this year and this was their first loss at home in the last five games. That tells you they're not a bad side.
"They're a team on the rise, and world rugby at the moment has some good teams which is exciting. We've just seen England tip over Australia in a tight game ... Fiji just about tipped over Ireland, and Scotland could easily have won tonight. Rugby is in a good place. "Everyone back home was telling us how they were getting bored with us being dominant. Well, they'll have to go away and have a cup of tea and think about that."
Some might need a cuppa and a lie down too if they were expecting Sonny Bill Williams to drop out of All Blacks contention any time soon. He laid on a try for Ryan Crotty with a chip kick through the French defences in Paris last week and repeated the feat for Damian McKenzie in Edinburgh. He used his traditional offload to great effect to, popping a pass under pressure to McKenzie for Barrett’s try that extended the All Blacks lead to 22-10.
This was not a perfect performance by the All Blacks but Scotland deserve some credit for that, using the ball superbly and tackling like men possessed. They dominated possession - the All Blacks making 157 tackles to Scotland’s 65 - and will rue missed chances that might have seen them win. So too did the All Blacks though with Vaea Fifita again showing he can find space but not the support player.
Liam Squire caught the same bug when he surged clear and chose to hold on to the ball rather than deliver the easy pass to Lima Sopoaga in support. That, almost certainly, was a try gone begging. Wyatt Crockett’s decision to push over a ruck and tackle halfback Ali Price, thinking he had his hands on the ball, was also costly. It was a tight call but with Sam Cane already in the sinbin Crockett needed to err on the side of caution. He didn’t and as Cane returned Crockett departed, leaving the All Blacks to finish the game with 14 men.
They survived, but only just.