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23 Sep 2007 19:25
Doug Howlett became the leading try-scorer in All Blacks history as New Zealand strolled into the World Cup quarterfinals with a 40-0 demolition of Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.
The 29-year-old wing claimed two of the six tries scored by the tournament favourites, taking his personal tally for his country to 48, two more than the previous record he had briefly shared with Christian Cullen.
It was a far from vintage performance from New Zealand, whose finishing lacked the cut-throat edge they had displayed in their previous pool-C wins over Italy and Portugal. But with a second-string Scotland side never seriously threatening to put them under pressure, Graham Henry’s squad could be forgiven for opting for cruise control.
Scotland will be back at full strength when they face Italy in their final pool-C match on Saturday in St Etienne, a match that will decide which of them join the All Blacks in the last eight.
Having apparently accepted the inevitably of defeat before the start, the Scots’ main priority was to avoid losing by the kind of margin that could affect morale across the squad going into the Italy match.
The early indications on that score were ominous and the Scots enjoyed an early let-off when Sitiveni Sivivatu dropped Dan Carter’s improvised chip with the line beckoning.
New Zealand still required less than five minutes to take the lead.
Rodney So’Oialo picked up at the base of a 5m scrum and the number eight’s round-the-back pass allowed Richie McCaw to slice his way unchecked through a wrong-footed Scots defence.
A nervy Chris Paterson then failed with a straightforward drop-goal attempt before full-back Leon MacDonald, with his last significant contribution before he limped off injured, put Howlett over in the corner for his record-breaking try.
Shortly afterwards, Paterson was put out of his misery, an early blow to the head providing coach Frank Hadden with additional reason to replace him with Dan Parks.
The introduction of the Australian-born flyhalf coincided with Scotland’s first period of sustained pressure, but they were soon on the back-foot again.
Byron Kelleher was not as wasteful after being fed by Chris Masoe, who had bulldozered his way through three Scotsman before slipping a pass to the All Blacks scrumhalf a couple of metres from the line.
Another Carter penalty just after the restarted extended New Zealand’s lead, but the large contingent of Kiwi fans had to wait until 18 minutes from the end before giant lock Ali Williams powered through four Scottish tackles to record his side’s fourth try with a full-length touchdown in the right-hand corner.
Three minutes later, Carter made amends for an off day with his goal kicking by adding a fifth try, the star number 10 touching down after a Nikki Walker fumble had left him with a clear 60-yard run to the posts.
There was still time for Howlett to complete a memorable afternoon with his second try.
The job was done efficiently enough, but New Zealand’s quarterfinal opponents will surely pose tougher questions than an overpowered Scotland could muster here.—Sapa-AFP
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