What was odd about yesterday's crowning glory is that Scotland monopolised possession in the second half and deservedly had the final word when Simon Webster scored their only try in the 79th minute. The forwards must have given a sigh of relief, although the game had been lost by half-time.
So, it's farewell Tana Umaga who, by all accounts, retires from Test rugby, although he wouldn't confirm it yesterday, having completed a unique hat-trick: a whitewash of the Lions, victory in the Tri-Nations and a clean sweep of the four home countries, only the second in history following the achievement of the 1978 All Blacks captained by the outstanding flanker Graham Mourie. Mourie, who gave up farming to become a full-time member of the New Zealand rugby board, watched this match on television at home.
Graham Henry, the former Auckland headmaster who thought he had sacrificed any chance of taking charge of New Zealand after joining Wales eight years ago, is on course to become the most successful coach since Sir Brian Lochore took possession of the freshly cast World Cup in Auckland in 1987.
Henry said that his priority on this tour was not so much to slam dunk Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland but to develop strength in depth for the ultimate challenge, the re-taking of the William Webb Ellis Trophy in a couple of years time. Henry got both, which is what he was after all the time.
For the Tests against Wales and England he fielded the full metal jacket, making wholesale changes for the matches against Ireland and the Scots. Can you see the join? Just about, but in any case the All Blacks did the right thing in resting Daniel Carter and co. This, after all, is their off-season. This was the culmination of an almost endless campaign and yet their superiority in terms of tries was 16 for, four of them yesterday, and only three against.
"It was a privilege to be on the same pitch as them," Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, said. "They are undoubtedly the best side in the world and they have great strength in depth, but it doesn't mean they're invincible. The next time we play them will be in the World Cup and it will be an interesting experience. I think we missed an opportunity here."
The All Blacks not only survived on meagre rations but got home by three goals, a try and a penalty to a goal and a penalty. "It's been a long year," Henry said. "We haven't had a break for 10 months. Tana is a very special leader. They wanted to leave a legacy and they've achieved that. It's been a very remarkable year and I take my hat off to them."
The All Blacks would have scored one of the more sensational tries in Test rugby when they ran the ball back from the kick-off, and 90 yards later Joe Rokocoko knocked on with the line begging. It set the tone, both in terms of New Zealand's approach and their handling, which was, by their standards, poor.
It didn't really matter. Even their reserves had something in reserve. After Chris Paterson had kicked Scotland into the lead, Piri Weepu put in a delightful chip to lay on a try for Rico Gear, the wing who scored three against Wales and was still rested.
The Scots managed to drive over their opponents' line but not even the video official could see what was at the bottom. At times the contest was absurd. The Scotland stand-off Dan Parks had so much ball he didn't know what to do with it. Well he did, but it was invariably the wrong option and badly executed. He kicked virtually everything and when he was replaced late in the second half a huge cheer echoed around Murrayfield.
The All Blacks were hellbent on keeping the ball alive and from a marvellous act of resuscitation came try No 2, Nick Evans ghosting between Jason White and Scott Lawson. Carter's understudy would walk into the Scotland team. A superb piece of juggling by James Ryan led to a try by Sione Lauaki. Trailing 22-3 at half-time, Scotland prevented the All Blacks from scoring again until the 73rd minute, when Gear got his second before Webster pounced on Phil Godman's grubber kick. It did not help that the All Black flanker Angus Macdonald (do they have to recruit from everywhere?) was man of the match.
In 100 years of trying, Scotland have never beaten New Zealand, although they denied them a Slam in 1964. The result then was 0-0, a scoreline unheard of in the modern game. The great Don Clarke, a colossus at full-back, had a barren afternoon at Murrayfield. "Don had a rare off-day," recalls Colin Meads. "He had a number of kicks at goal and missed the lot. It was a pretty dismal day all round."
Meads has been in Britain not only following Umaga's triumphant tour but also as a member of the Kiwi delegation that won the rights to host the 2011 World Cup. Today he flies to Paris to attend the IRB annual awards and there are no prizes for guessing that the All Blacks will sweep the board.
MAN FOR MAN MARKING
Star performer: Hugo Southwell 8
Owed his late selection to an injury to Rory Lamont, and took his chance with great relish. Ran, tackled and kicked from hand with real purpose
Chris Paterson 7
Was tidy in defence and willing to break out with the ball. Ran elusively, but needs more bulk. Missed a penalty as the All Blacks were getting on top
Marcus Di Rollo 5
Was understandably keen to make a favourable impression and cement his place in Scotland's midfield. Maybe this made him nervous and fallible
Andrew Henderson 7
Seemed a lot more confident than his fellow centre, and was always on the look-out for a gap to exploit. Proved quite a handful for the Kiwi tacklers
Sean Lamont 7
Fast developing into the star of this back nine, and one bullocking late run took him 70 yards downfield. Looked comfortable whenever he had the ball
Dan Parks 6
Not everyone's idea of an international stand-off. His kicking from hand was variable, but once or twice he exposed the openings behind the Kiwi defence
Chris Cusiter 6
The poor lad's injury jinx continues just as he is trying to make a case for himself to the selectors. Off this time after 20 minutes with heavy bruising
Gavin Kerr 5
Was conceding three and a half stone to the gigantic Afoa and it showed in the scrums. His mobility in the loose will never cancel out such a disparity
Scott Lawson 5
Another willing worker in broken play whose set-piece skills and physical presence are lacking. Was particularly erratic with his line-out throwing
Bruce Douglas 6
The most solid of the three front-row forwards, and a regular pivot for the catch-and-drive approach that the Scotland management is embracing
Craig Hamilton 4
Gave a largely anonymous display with little or no return from his line-out efforts. Was particularly exposed when he missed a key tackle on Evans
Scott Murray 6
Always wins his share of line-out ball, assuming it's thrown to him when he's expecting it. Battered away with gusto without quite seizing the initiative
Jason White 7
Led from the front and seemed to be involved in most of Scotland's moves. Also disrupted the opposition with a series of big tackles all round the pitch
Ally Hogg 6
Another at whom a finger could be pointed over how Evans found room to break off his own line and set up a try-scoring move. Otherwise sound
Simon Taylor 6
Not his most eye-catching game in a Scotland shirt, largely because he found himself on the back foot most of the time and unable to make inroads
Douglas Hall 6 Post-Lawton, the line-outs improved
Craig Smith 5 On for Douglas, made little impact
Alastair Kellock 6 Improved considerably on Hamilton
Kelly Brown 5 Late replacement for Hogg
Mike Blair 7 Made forceful claim to be first-choice
Phil Godman 6 Showed deft touches and vision
Simon Webster 7 Injected pace at centre, and a try
Star performer: Piri Weepu 8
Strength, speed and anticipation personified. Was a constant threat for his 65 minutes of action, and set up Gear's first try with a lovely kick
Isaia Toeava 5
Should become a useful squad member, but was palpably nervous on his debut, especially under the high ball. Lacked understanding with his wings
Rico Gear 7
Helped himself to a couple of routine tries. Uncorked his fizzing pace on occasions, but was also guilty of a few missed tackles and handling errors
Tana Umaga 6
A vintage display was expected from the captain on perhaps his last Test appearance. Alas, there were too many fumbles despite his usual commitment
Conrad Smith 5
Arrived a month ago as a first-choice centre in waiting. None of his much-vaunted running was in evidence and his efforts seemed somewhat crude
Joe Rokocoko 7
Looked dangerous when presented with a gap, but well policed by the Scottish defence. Had to defend himself more than he would have liked
Nick Evans 7
With Carter taking a day off, the Otago fly-half underlined his understudy credentials. The highlight of an assured performance was his well-taken try
Saimone Taumoepeau 6
Scrummaged powerfully against a slightly outgunned Scottish front row. Went off towards the end to make way for Tialata, another squad option
Anton Oliver 7
Belies his years with levels of fitness and enthusiasm that is the envy of much younger players. Reliable as ever at the line-outs and in the loose
John Afoa 6
A mountain of a man whose role was clearly to sap the energy from the buoyant Scottish pack. Did little of note away from his set-pieces duties
Chris Jack 7
Despite the occasional knock-on, the Blacks' line-out was well marshalled. Was mobile as usual about the park and worked hard at the breakdown
James Ryan 7
His dynamic, all-round contribution to this match is not likely to live as long in the memory as his controversial ball- juggling prior to Lauaki's touchdown
Angus Macdonald 6
Not hard to spot thanks to his shaven pate. Bristled with aggression and opportunism but got on the referee's wrong side too often after the break
Richie McCaw 7
Made Scotland's life a misery at the back of scrums and line-outs, and on fringes at the breakdown. They were not sorry to see him limp off early
Sione Lauaki 7
He may not seem as confrontational as Collins or So'oialo, but his No 8 game is every bit as physical and awkward. Did well to control the ball for his try
Andrew Hore 5 On for the 15 minutes as Oliver tired
Neemia Tialata 5 Another prop with a bulky presence
Jason Eaton 6 Added mobility and pace in attack
Mose Tuiali'i 5 Had difficult task of replacing McCaw
Jimmy Cowan 5 Not yet a game-breaker like Weepu
Leon Macdonald 5 Had a few minutes in place of Evans
Ma'a Nonu 6 Looked far more creative than Smith
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