After a bit of skirmishing early on, Scotland were looking impressive and got a penalty for their efforts which their kicker banged over for a 3-0 lead to the Scots only for Merhtens to repay the favour soon afterwards for 3 all after about 10 mins of play. The whole of the first half was a pretty boring display really. The high point were an absolutely storming run by little Byron Kelleher. He broke from the ruck at full pace down the sideline, but although entertaining didn't amount to anything as his grubber kick went nowhere. Lomu carried on from game one of the tour, being much more involved in the play and showed the world that he's improved his kicking game out of sight with him kicking for touch very effectively on a couple of occasions! The low point of the first half was the return of the "old" All Black lineout. Three against the throw in the first half! Not a good sign Anton!
Brendon Laney has a solid game. He managed to sidestep Merhtens on one occasion and kicked consistantly, but that was about it. This was better than his counterpart from New Zealand, though. Leon MacDonald played awfully under the high ball (something the Scots used a fair bit of) and altogether had a shocker! Unfortunately for him it got worse - he's strained a groin muscle and will miss the final game of the tour.
At the break NZ was up 9-6 after 3 Merhtens penalties to 2 from Chris Paterson. Into the second half the All Blacks sped the game up considerably. Their ball retention improved with several phase play more common. Scotland on the other hand seemed to panic whenever they had the ball - knocking it on or being penalised for holding on. After an early miss from Paterson, New Zealand camped in the Scottish half for most of the second spell with Merhts continuing to punish with his 100% goalkicking record for the night. 15-6 to New Zealand before the Scots got another chance at the posts. A real sitter too - but incredibly Paterson still managed to completely muff it up. A sixth Merhtens penalty made the score 18-6 and the superior fitness of the All Blacks began to tell. The first of the All Blacks tries came when Merhts put Umaga into a gap with a switch in direction Scotland weren't expecting. Umaga had little trouble running 60 metres to score under the posts which Merhtens converted with ease. The pass was a little suspect (OK - very suspect) to being forward, but we'll take it! The second try came when New Zealand were leading 25-6 and turned down an easy three points in favour of a lineout. 'Oh crap' I shuddered at the prospect of another lineout (NZ had lost about 6 against the throw at this point), and even worse I saw it was gonna be a long lineout. But they proved me wrong! Anton threw a perfect long ball to Norm Maxwell, which he caught and gave to Sharky Robinson to go back around the front of the lineout to score! The last try from Jonah came after Scotland were hot on attack - but Doug Howlett somehow got the ball inside his own 22 after a Scotish mistake. He sprinted up the field only to be tackled - but not before passing the ball to McCaw! McCaw ran as fast as he could, but alas not fast enough. He also was caught. He tried to give a pass to Ben Blair the substitute fullback but it ended up on the ground. Not knocked on though! Then out of no-where Tana Umaga scoop-passed the ball up to Jonah. The Scots had run out of tacklers and luck. Besides, Jonah only had 10 metres to go! All that remained was for Ben Blair to miss the conversion and the All Blacks had won by 31 points!
All in all, Scotland's fowards were very competitive with New Zealand up until the 70 minute mark but their backs really messed things up for them. The New Zealand lineout was again put in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, but Merhten's standout performance at goalkicking and controlling the play with what can only be called utter brilliance made up for it for me. He's a joy to watch when he's playing this well. Certainly he was my man of the match. The only major thing he did wrong was have a dropout of his go out on the full - I guess no-one's perfect!
Onward to Argentina!