Before Scotland faced the men in black last night there was an official gathering of their former internationals. Not one of the old boys could boast of a victory against New Zealand while playing for Scotland. Neither could the players who were wearing the thistle when Dave Pearson blew his final whistle. Not by a long way.
The Northumbrian referee might as well have brought an end to proceedings before the half hour, with New Zealand 28-3 up. By the end – and with the All Blacks in neutral, with Dublin in mind – Graham Henry's side had just shy of a half-century on the scoreboard.
This was a hammer blow to the Scots, on the back of hard-earned wins against Ireland and Argentina. It was their biggest defeat on home soil against New Zealand and their second biggest at home or away, behind a 69-20 thrashing in Dunedin in 2000.
There were seven tries, including two each for the left wing, Hosea Gear, and the full-back, Mils Muliaina. Sonny Bill Williams failed to score but in his second appearance in the All Black jersey the big rugby league convert showed subtlety to match his considerable stature, setting up two tries with sublime one-handed feeds.
"It's great that he's in our sport," said Andy Robinson, "but maybe not for opposition coaches. It was not just him. New Zealand were outstanding tonight and we were unable to match them. We dropped off tackles in the first 20 minutes and the game was over. It was a harsh lesson, a reality check of what international rugby is all about."
Robinson had urged his team to keep the scoreboard ticking but after Dan Parks kicked a fourth-minute penalty the All Blacks racked up 28 points – from four tries, all converted by Dan Carter – in 18 minutes.
The first came in the ninth minute. From a scrum on the left, the scrum-half Jimmy Cowan unleashed Williams on a wrecking-ball run, the 6ft 4in and 17st centre clearing a path through the home ranks before slipping a delightfully deft feed out of the back door for Gear to score under the posts.
Three minutes later, Carter cut in from the right touchline to score at the posts. Then the sometime underwear model exposed further shortcomingsin the home defence, teeing up Muliaina for a diagonal scoring run. With 27 minutes on the clock, Gear took a pass from Conrad Smith and came inside from the left touchline. He left three defenders clutching thin Caledonian air on his way across the whitewash.
The All Blacks dropped the pace in the second half but they managed three more tries nonetheless. Williams supplied another basketball offload for Muliaina to score on the overlap in the 49th minute and also produced a one-handed pass in the move that yielded a try for Smith in the 67th minute. The replacement scrum-half, Andy Ellis, completed the damage, bursting through under the posts with a minute of regulation time remaining.
Scotland H Southwell (Stade Français); R Lamont (Toulon), M Evans, G Morrison (both Glasgow), S Lamont (Scarlets); D Parks (Cardiff Blues), M Blair (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford (all Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), J Hamilton (Gloucester), R Gray (Glasgow), K Brown (Saracens), R Vernon,J Barclay (both Glasgow). Replacements A Dickinson (Gloucester) for Murray, 20-31; 65; G Laidlaw (Edinburgh) for Blair, 38; N Walker (Ospreys) for R Lamont, 40; N Hines (Leinster) for Hamilton, 40; R Rennie (Edinburgh) for Brown, 65; R Jackson (Glasgow) for Parks, 67; S Lawson (Gloucester) for Ford, 67.
New Zealand M Muliaina (Waikato); I Toeava (Auckland), C Smith (Wellington), SB Williams (Canterbury), H Gear (Wellington); D Carter (Canterbury), J Cowan (Southland); T Woodcock (North Harbour), H Elliot (Hawke's Bay), O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock (all Canterbury), L Messam (Otago), R McCaw (capt), K Read (both Canterbury). Replacements S Donald (Waikato) for Carter, 50; J Afoa (Auckland) for Franks, 53; A Boric (Auckland) for Thorn, 57; D Braid (Auckland) for McCaw, 57; A Ellis (Canterbury) for Cowan, 58; A Hore(Taranaki) for Elliot, 61.
Referee D Pearson (England).