Carter the unstoppable points machine
New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter is rarely guilty of a misplaced pass or shoddy kick at goal — as his world-leading 1 381 points in test rugby testify to — but the perfectionist in black took his frustrations out on Scotland in mesmerising style on Sunday.
Carter was left aghast in Brisbane last month when his drop goal attempt against Australia after the siren had sounded flew wide, an 18-18 draw against their Tasman foes ending a run of 16 successive victories.
Another win would have matched the record of the All Blacks side who clocked up 17 straight victories between 1965 and 1969 and the South Africans between 1997 and 1998.
Carter made Scotland pay at Murrayfield, recovering from seeing his pass intercepted by Matt Scott on 13 minutes that allowed Tim Visser in for the game’s opening try to orchestrate a six-score salvo by the world champions to kick off their European tour with a 51-22 win.
The 30-year-old was at his imperious best, his potent running, ball handling and vision wreaking havoc in a Scotland defence that had vowed to stand “toe-to-toe” with their illustrious opponents.
He contributed 21 points with the boot — successful with nine from 10 attempts — but it was his playmaking skills that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and opposite number Andy Robinson purring.
“He was pretty handy with ball and boot,” said Hansen.
“Probably the only thing he did wrong was give them an intercept try but really that was a reflection on how he is taking the ball to the line and I thought he caused them a lot of problems doing that.
“When he does that he always plays well and he did that all day.
“His job was made easier by a bloke that has come in for a lot of criticism — (scrumhalf) Piri Weepu — I thought he was outstanding today in the 60 minutes he played.”
Captain Richie McCaw, playing in his 114th test, also lauded the standoff.
“It’s great to see him playing like that — he was pretty happy in the shed,” said the flanker.
“He was a bit disappointed last time we were out (against Australia) but he had a pretty good game.”
Scotland coach Robinson and captain Kelly Brown, confronting their side’s shortcomings in defence, conceded Carter had been unstoppable.
“When you give a guy like that time and space he’ll pull the strings, he’s a fantastic footballer and rugby player,” said Robinson.
“We had to put him under pressure — but it is the quality he has... when he does break the line the team normally score from it.”
Brown, skippering the Scots in his 50th test, put it more succinctly.
“We needed to shut him down and we didn’t do it.”
Carter can now probably look forward to a sightseeing trip in Rome with the All Blacks likely to make changes to face Italy next weekend before the sterner tests of Wales and England.