WINGER Tim Visser marked his Murrayfield Test debut by becoming the first Scotland internationalist to score two tries against New Zealand since Doddie Weir in the 1995 World Cup, but even he struggled to take any consolation from such a landmark after his side suffered an eventual 51-22 defeat.
The Dutchman, who also scored twice in his debut Test against Fiji in the summer, shared in the disappointment cascading through the home dressing room after seeing a promising opening quarter become engulfed by another All Black display of finishing, helped on its way by Scotland mistakes. It is 16 years since Scotland put three tries past the men in black and on that occasion they shipped 61 points, but Visser was plagued afterwards by the nagging feeling that this one could have been different.
He said: “To take my form on to the international stage and score against the world champions is great. I don’t think they were my trademark tries – I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time – but I’ll take them.
“But for anyone to put 50 points past us is disappointing and that is something we have to address immediately going into the South Africa game now. Scoring tries and getting points on the board is brilliant and that is definitely something we can work on; it’s just that little things went wrong and they put pressure on us, and the turnovers were vital.
“The physicality was right up there. I remember one high ball I caught and I thought I was through the space, but Victor Vito just shut the gate pretty late on and I thought, ‘welcome to international rugby’. You expect a lot of physicality from these guys, and they showed it. At times we fronted up and at times we didn’t, which is what let us down.
“But New Zealand are the world champions and, although the scoreline was really big, we have to take positives from it. The try we scored before half-time, after one was first disallowed, showed that we are able to convert situations into points. If we can contain other teams and keep scoring like that then we’ll be in with a shot most games.”
Visser’s ability to track the play and be ready to explode when he sees something being created is something, he acknowledged, that he was encouraging teammates to copy. It has certainly lifted the feeling in the Scotland squad, as it has at Edinburgh, that the team now has a potent finisher who can turn the hard work of countless games in recent years into tries that hurt teams. But that might apply to other teams; not New Zealand on this form.
Scotland’s head coach Andy Robinson was similarly struggling to hold on to the positive feeling of seeing his side exploit three opportunities against the World Cup holders against the nagging frustrations of watching how easily his team were carved open, and conceded six scores, and mostly engineered by the man he had demanded his players do everything in their power to contain: Dan Carter.
Robinson said: “If you sit off New Zealand they are a very good attacking team and will take you apart. That’s something that we knew before going into this game, that we had to get off the line and put them under pressure – and we did in parts – but you have to do that consistently for the whole 80 minutes and we just dropped off our line-speed at times and allowed them to play too comfortably.
“When you give a guy like that [Dan Carter] time and space he will pull the strings. He is a fantastic footballer and rugby player. We had to put him under pressure, but it’s the quality that he has of getting into a rhythm as if he’s going to pass the ball and then he takes a hold of you. He sucks you into it, pass, pass, pass and then he goes, and the quality of the man is that, when he does break the line, his team usually score from it.”
Kelly Brown, the new Scotland captain, agreed that a key failure was Scotland’s inability to “shut him down”, which had always been a key target in the Scotland game-plan.
“At times we ran hard and we really looked physical and, obviously, it’s great to score, but on the other side of things we spoke all week about needing to be a difficult side to beat, and out there we weren’t,” he said, with typical candour.
“We scored three tries against them and obviously that’s a good thing but we need to tighten up in terms of our defence and we know that next week they [South Africa] will run incredibly hard, so it’s up to us to front up to it.
“We can’t afford to lie down now. We need to fight back and there are quite a few stubborn guys in this side. It’s up to us to fight back and we have six days in which to do it.”
Brown and Robinson acknowledged that, with Argentina beating Wales comfortably on Saturday, Scotland need now to beat South Africa and Tonga in their remaining EMC Autumn Test matches to have any chance of reaching the top eight in the IRB rankings and claiming a place in the second pot of seeds for December’s 2015 World Cup draw. It was always going to be a tough ask and, while the Springboks struggled to overcome Ireland on Saturday, before prevailing, they will not be an ‘easier’ team to tame.