The gulf between rugby in the southern and northern hemispheres was starkly illustrated at Carisbrook on Saturday. The Scots competed bravely and scor- ed a record number of points against New Zealand. But it was all to no avail - the All Blacks just scored twice as many.
New Zealand rugby supporters continue to be baffled at how Twickenham can draw capacity crowds when England scored just three tries in their Five Nations campaign. There were 12 tries at Dunedin, four by the new star of world rugby, the full-back Christian Cullen, and the almost capacity crowd of 36,000 - a remarkable attendance considering the Scots' lack of success on tour - savoured every moment.
Certainly there were mistakes - inevitable when rugby is played at this tempo - but New Zealand crowds now expect, indeed demand, that risks be taken and the ball run. Scotland, to their credit, tried to attack and their three tries - including a late gem from Gregor Townsend which was reminiscent of Phil Bennett at his best - brought some consolation.
But not much. The reality is that Scotland, the most enterpri- sing of the Five Nations sides, are still light years behind New Zea- land. Rowen Shepherd, who kicked 15 points, Kenny Logan and Craig Joiner are all competent international players, but they were made to look almost inadequate by the All Black back three of Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Jeff Wilson.
Everybody knows about Lo- mu, and Tony Underwood and Mike Catt would have sympathised when Lomu trod Joiner underfoot as he first battered then trotted his way to an almost inevitable try. Wilson, who scored three tries in a sensational debut when the All Blacks beat Scotland, 51-15, at Murrayfield in 1993, was directly responsible for two tries with his incisive running and he was angry with himself that he had not done more.
Cullen is the newest of New Zealand's fleet-footed discoveries. He has scored seven tries in two Tests and his first against Scotland, when he shrugged aside seven tacklers on a 35-metre run to the line, will be recalled long after the match statistics are forgotten.
"Jonah is the devil we know; Cullen is the one we are learning about at the moment," the Scotland captain, Rob Wainwright, said. "We got a bit sick of his backside disappearing over the try line."
The Scotland forwards played above themselves and Wainwright, Kevin McKenzie, David Hilton, Doddie Weir and Eric Peters were exceptional contributors. But modern rugby is a game played at speed by all 15 players and Scotland, despite their worthy and earnest endeavours, discovered - if they did not already know - that they are still on a learning curve.
It is one of rugby's oldest cliches that matches are decided by the front five. Try telling that to Scotland. In New Zealand at present rugby matches seem to hinge on the abilities of the back three.
New Zealand: Tries Cullen 4, I Jones, Lomu, Marshall, Z Brooke, Mehrtens; Conversions Mehrtens 7; Penalties Mehrtens 1. Scotland: Tries Peters, Joiner, Townsend; Conversions Shepherd 2; Penalties Shepherd 3; Drop goals Shepherd 1.
NEW ZEALAND: C Cullen (Manawatu); J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce (North Harbour), S Mac- Leod (Waikato), J Lomu (Counties); A Mehr- tens (Canterbury), J Marshall (Canterbury); C Dowd (Auckland), S Fitzpatrick (Auckland, capt), O Brown (Auckland), I Jones (Auckland), R Brooke (Auckland), M Jones (Auckland), Z Brooke (Auckland), J Kronfeld (Otago). Replacement: E Rush (North Harbour) for Lomu, 67
SCOTLAND: R Shepherd (Melrose); C Joiner (Melrose), R Eriksson (London Scottish), I Jardine (Stirling County), K Logan (Stirling County); G Townsend (Northampton), G Armstrong (Newcastle); D Hilton (Bath), K McKenzie (Stirling County), P Wright (Boroughmuir), D Cronin (Bourges), G Weir (Newcastle), R Wainwright (Watsonians, capt), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Gloucester).
Referee: W Erickson (Aus).Reuse content