Scotland paid the price as referee got major call wrong against All Blacks

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'It took a special player to stop a special player' - Steve Hansen

In the 72nd minute of an epic Test, Scotland were camped on New Zealand's five-metre line, trailing 22-10 but pushing hard to narrow the gap.

They were playing a penalty advantage and had a one-man advantage, Wyatt Crockett having been sent to the bin. The All Blacks were in trouble - and they knew it.

Jonny Gray stooped to pick up the ball directly in front of the New Zealand posts. Another metre, another recycle and Scotland could have been over. In that critical moment, an All Black lying on the ground stuck his hand out and knocked the ball free of Gray's hands. Kieran Read was a desperate man. He gambled and he won.

Referee Matthew Carley gave a knock-on against Gray. Some Scottish players remonstrated as much as they could, but Carley was insistent. And he was wholly wrong. He returned to the Scottish penalty but what he should have done was play advantage, from where a Scotland try looked near-certain. Then he should have binned Read.

It would have been a five-point game and New Zealand would have had to play the remaining minutes with 13 players. A world of possibilities would have opened up. None of that happened, though. The All Blacks pulled a fast one - and they were allowed to get away with it.

They received two yellows in the match, but it should have been four. Read should have walked and, much earlier, Waisake Naholo, should have gone as well, after taking Stuart Hogg out in the air. Carley allowed himself to be talked out of his original decision - yellow card - by his TMO. It was lamentable stuff. Gregor Townsend was circumspect on all of this later on, but inside he must have been a deeply frustrated man.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend's side came up short of the most famous result in Scottish rugby history

This was a Test that had drama at its core from start to finish.

That last act was, of course, gob-smacking, Hogg getting the ball on halfway with the clock showing we were in the 80th minute. Accelerating past the All Black full-back Damian McKenzie, then eluding the despairing tackle of replacement scrum-half TJ Perenara, there was a split-second when you thought history was about to happen in front of your eyes.

After 112 years of trying and failing to beat New Zealand, this was it. The Moment and The Man.

Beauden Barrett admitted later he thought he may have given Hogg too much space. Hogg said afterwards he didn't know what to think. In his press conference he used the word "gutted", or a variation of it, numerous times.

When Barrett made that match-winning tackle - which was followed immediately by the full-time whistle after Hogg's attempted pass went forward - the two-time Lion full-back was in despair. An hour later, he was still in the horrors.

No comfort was taken in his individual excellence at the heart of a brilliant collective. There was not a lot of talk of gallantry in defeat. This was pure pain and regret about one that got away.

Part of the reason Hogg was so upset was because injury denied him a chance to play against New Zealand for the Lions in the summer and because he doesn't know when he's going to get another shot at beating this team of teams. For Scotland, those opportunities don't come around very often.

There was a theatre to Saturday that conjured up a memory of Monty Python's Black Knight, a fearsome warrior who finally met his match. In a sword fight in the forest, off went one of his arms. "Tis but a scratch!" said the knight. Off went another arm. "Just a flesh wound!" he responded.

Hamish Watson only lasted 27 minutes against the All Blacks
Hamish Watson was superb in the loose but lasted only 27 minutes

Against the All Blacks, it was Scotland who were cast in the role of the Black Knight. They lost Hamish Watson early and they fought on. They lost Zander Fagerson at half-time. Early in the new half, Alex Dunbar retired hurt, then Luke Hamilton. Four injuries in 50 minutes. "Just a flesh wound," was the reply.

Scotland played much of the last quarter of this Test with a fifth-choice loose-head, a third-choice hooker, a third-choice tight-head and an open-side in George Turner who's not an open-side at all, but a hooker.

That pecking order will have to be revisited, of course, because some of those guys fronted up in a way that was astonishing given their lack of experience at this level.

This was a New Zealand side missing a few stellar names but still heavyweight enough for the great Zinzan Brooke to predict a 60-pointer for his countrymen. It didn't take long to realise that it was never going to be one of those days. Scotland had an intensity and an ambition from the get-go.

They had the immense John Barclay leading the defensive line, haring up on the All Blacks, forcing them to rush their pass to a receiver who was promptly enveloped by white jerseys. New Zealand are used to getting easy points against Scotland. Not a lot came easy to them on Saturday.

Hogg was electrifying at one end and rock solid at the other. Already, at the tender age of 25, you can declare him the finest Scottish player of all time and you wouldn't get too many dissenting voices.

Scotland were dangerous, but didn't have the speed of ball or the power to finish the job when they got to New Zealand's line. They let the All Blacks off the hook. How they will rue those chances they created and didn't take.

Scotland captain John Barclay
Scotland have not managed to beat New Zealand in 31 attempts since 1905

When the injuries started coming in waves, this Test went up a notch, from a fine game to an epic battle.

Watson had been superb in his half an hour on the pitch. He'd won some turnovers, made a lot of tackles, carried a lot of ball. He was a royal pain in the All Blacks' backside - and then he was gone.

Whereas New Zealand could call on vast experience and proven class from their bench, Townsend had a lot of rookies. Hamilton came on for his debut at open-side, a player most in Murrayfield would have known next to nothing about, and he was terrific.

Fagerson was next to go. That was the top two tight-heads - WP Nel and Fagerson - out of the equation. On came Simon Berghan, with less than an hour of Test rugby under his belt.

For Scotland, the challenges mounted in a way that made you wince. When New Zealand scored their opening try, the Scots were one man down in the defensive line. An important man, too. Dunbar is one of Scotland's most influential defenders but he was lying injured when the All Blacks made their breakthrough.

Dunbar went off - a third man down. Then Hamilton went, a desperately unfortunate moment for the Leicester Tiger.

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg
Hogg turned in a magnificent display for Scotland just weeks after returning from a long injury lay-off

This is where things started to get trippy. Immediately after Hamilton was taken away on a stretcher, there was a scrum. Turner, the Glasgow hooker winning his second cap, packed down at number two with Stuart McInally, who had been playing wonderfully in the middle of the front row, switching to number seven.

In the maelstrom, Scotland's makeshift scrum got demolished. A minute later, they were behind their posts again. Trailing 15-3, you feared for them.

On the hour, Townsend had to dig deep into his bench again. Darryl Marfo had been an unknown in Scotland until a few months ago. He had played virtually no rugby in England for six years before his summer arrival in Edinburgh. It's fair to say his capture wasn't exactly accompanied by a fanfare.

Marfo made his debut last week and backed it up with another fine performance. He was spent, though. On came Jamie Bhatti, another talented footballer who has gone from being a young man learning his trade with Glasgow to Test player in the blink of an eye.

If you'd said a few months back that Scotland's front-row against the All Blacks would become Bhatti-Turner-Berghan then rugby folk would have retreated to a darkened room.

Just after the hour, New Zealand had another scrum. This time, Turner went to seven and McInally back in to hooker. The result, within seconds, was another All Black try and the restoration of their 12-point lead.

What happened in the last 10 minutes was extraordinary. In Python, the limbless, but irrepressible Black Knight said victory would be his when he bit the legs off his adversary. Scotland had a resilience that New Zealand struggled to contain.

Huw Jones plunges over for Scotland's second try at Murrayfield
Huw Jones plunges over for Scotland's second try at Murrayfield

The All Blacks lost Sam Cane to the bin in trying to keep them out, then they lost Crockett under more pressure.

There was a scrum, eight minutes from the end and five metres from the New Zealand line. Eight Scots versus seven All Blacks. The seven won. Scotland's patchwork scrum made you wonder what it might have been like had even some of the missing front-rowers been around on the day.

The All Blacks must have thought they'd seen Scotland off at that stage, but they hadn't. Read took his gamble and Carley was taken in by it. Even then, a beautifully constructed try for Huw Jones set up that dramatic endgame.

In the aftermath, Steve Hansen and his players saluted Scotland, not in a patronising way, but with the sincerity of men who had been taken to the wire. A game had been lost but respect had been won.

Any team that ever achieved anything had heartbreak in their back story. Scotland came agonisingly close but they need to go again now.

The casualty list is long and the threat of the Wallabies on Saturday is great, but there is a togetherness and talent about Townsend's players - the established and the emerging - that makes you shift forward in your seat every time they play.