They paraded Chris Hoy before kick-off time in the west end of Edinburgh last night, but when it came to the action the golden boy's countrymen were unable to put a spoke in the wheels of the All Blacks machine.
With a new-look New Zealand making 12 changes to the side who beat Australia in Hong Kong seven days previously, and featuring a trio of debutants in their pack, Scotland sensed as good a chance as they are likely to get to claim an elusive scalp. Long before the final whistle, the opportunity had gone the same way as all of the others over the 103 years of one-sided competition between these two countries.
Three tries in the opening 41 minutes – courtesy of the right wing, Anthony Tuitavake, scrum-half, Piri Weepu, and the outstanding outside centre, Richard Kahui – eased the tourists into the comfort zone and ensured that Graham Henry returned to Britain a darned sight happier than he left it 13 months ago. The sight of Wayne Barnes might have been a painful reminder to the head coach of the night his World Cup dream came to grief in Cardiff last year, but in contrast to that quarter-final defeatagainst France, there were no refereeing calls of particular contention last night.
There was an even distribution of yellow cards from the English whistle-blower – one to the Scotland centre Nick De Luca and one to Anthony Boric, an All Black second row – but that was where the parity stopped.
Scotland suffered disruption before kick-off, Simon Taylor succumbing to a calf strain and Ali Hogg filling the vacancy left by the Stade Français man at No 8. They made a rousing start, though, their scrum-half and captain, Mike Blair, catching the opposition napping with a quick tap- and-go and feeding Chris Paterson, who got within 10 metres of the line before being hauled down by the All Blacks' openside flanker, Adam Thomson. Still, the tourists infringed at the breakdown, leaving Paterson to swing his trusty right boot and put Scotland 3-0 up with just a minute on the clock.
Sadly for the Scots, the reality check was not long in coming. Two minutes later the All Blacks threatened to cut loose, Kahui breaking up the left and floating the ball inside to Kieran Read. The Canterbury captain, making his debut on the flank, was halted inside the Scotland 22 but the ruck that followed drew a blast of Barnes's whistle and a yellow card for De Luca, for kicking the ball.
The fly-half, Stephen Donald, landed the ensuing penalty and then, in the eighth minute, the Waikato playmaker – making his second Test start – lofted a crossfield kick into the right corner for Tuitavake to claim his first All Black score, if with just the hint of offside. Donald added the extras and followed up with a 40-metre penalty to give New Zealand a 13-3 lead going into the second quarter.
Paterson made a fleeting dent in the All Black advantage with his second penalty, but in the 26th minute Scotland's whitewash was crossed again. Kahui did the damage with a teasing grubber kick from 30 metres out and in the scramble to gather it Weepu scooped up the ball and fended off Paterson to score.
Donald's skewed conversionattempt was one small mercy for the Scots, but at the other end Paterson pushed a penalty wide and the All Blacks' line survived a sustained pounding before the break, the full-back, Isaia Toeava, wrapping up Hogg when the Edinburgh No 8 looked like breaking through. That left Scotland 18-6 down and needing to strike first to sustain any realistic hopes of a second-half turnaround.
It came as a blow to the solar plexus, then, when, after the break the hosts failed to gather a bouncing garryowen from Donald and Kahui scampered 40 metres to score try No 3 for Henry's men. Donald's conversion stretched the lead to 25-6, and to compound the Scottish agony the wing Sean Lamont limped out of the fray, to be replaced by Hugo Southwell.
At least Scotland held out from then until the 73rd minute, when Boric charged over. Dan Carter, on as a replacement scrum-half, kickedthe conversion.
Scotland: C Paterson; T Evans, B Cairns, N De Luca, S Lamont; P Godman, M Blair (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray, N Hines, J Hamilton, J White, A Hogg, J Barclay. Replacements: H Southwell for Lamont, 41; A Dickinson for Murray, 54; Murray for Jacobsen, 65; M Mustchin for Hines, 54; S Gray for White, 62; D Hall for Ford, 64; D Parks for Godman, 70; R Lawson for Blair, 72.
New Zealand: I Toeava; A Tuitavake, R Kahui, M Nonu, J Rokocoko; S Donald, P Weepu; J Mackintosh, K Mealamu (capt), J Afoa, A Boric, A Williams, K Reid, L Messam, A Thomson. Replacements: C Jane for Toeava, 40; A Ellis for Weepu, 53; N Tialata for Mackintosh, 54; C Flynn for Mealamu, 60; R McCaw for Thomson, 60; R Filipo for Williams, 66; D Carter for Ellis, 70.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).