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Autumn Nations Series: Five talking points from Week One

Autumn Nations Series: Five talking points from Week One

Kyle Steyn celebrates scoring his second try with Darcy Graham and Rufus McLean

Scotland and New Zealand launched their Autumn Nations Series campaigns in scintillating fashion over the weekend with impressive victories in two enthralling encounters.

Gregor Townsend’s men defeated Tonga 60-14 as several new names announced themselves on the international stage before the All Blacks overcame Wales 54-16 in Cardiff.

Another six games will take place this coming weekend as more nations join the party but before we look ahead, here’s the key talking points from the two opening fixtures.

Steyn makes history in Edinburgh

Kyle Steyn made his Scotland debut in March 2020 but had to wait until Saturday’s match with Tonga for his second cap after missing almost a year of rugby with a hamstring injury.

And he made up for lost time with a superb Player of the Match display in the 60-14 victory at BT Murrayfield, scoring four tries to etch his name in his country’s record books.

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The Glasgow Warriors winger secured his hat-trick before the half-time interval and completed the milestone with the game’s final try as the clock ticked into the red in Edinburgh.

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In crossing the whitewash four times, Steyn emulated Gavin Hastings’ four tries against Ivory Coast at the 1995 World Cup and became the first Scot to achieve the feat at BT Murrayfield.

Rufus McLean

Debutants shine for Scotland

While Steyn stole the headlines with four of Scotland’s ten tries, Townsend will also take plenty of encouragement from the performances of many debutants who were on show.

In the absence of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe and several other established names, Tonga presented the Scotland head coach with a chance to test his squad depth.

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And Rufus McLean grasped his opportunity with both hands, with the 21-year-old demonstrating his ability to conjure up something out of nothing with two excellently taken tries.

Pierre Schoeman also bulldozed his way over for a try on his Scotland bow while Australian-born Sione Tuipulotu was very good with ball in hand as shown by his pass for Steyn’s first try.

Kyle Steyn

All Blacks show ruthless edge

New Zealand climbed back to the top of the world rankings with a comfortable 54-16 victory over Wales at Principality Stadium as they showed no mercy to a depleted Wales.

Wayne Pivac’s hosts were looking for a first win over the All Blacks in 68 years and only trailed by 12 points after 61 minutes before the visitors ran riot in the final quarter in Cardiff.

Two tries in quick succession from Dalton Papalii and Sevu Reece demonstrated New Zealand’s ruthless edged before Anton Lienert-Brown grabbed a sixth try for Ian Foster’s men.

It was then left to Beauden Barrett to seal the win for the All Blacks and take their score above the 50-point mark with a second interception try, capping off an emphatic performance.

Beauden Barrett celebrates as he runs in a try on his 100th cap for the All Blacks

Barrett marks milestone in style

Speaking of Beauden Barrett, the 30-year-old celebrated his milestone 100th Test cap for New Zealand with a display that demonstrated why he has been at the top of the game for so long.

Only the 11th player to achieve the feat, Barrett could not have wished for a better start to his special occasion as he intercepted a Gareth Anscombe pass to open the scoring early on.

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Although he was fortunate to escape a yellow card for deliberately knocking on Owen Lane’s pass to Johnny Williams, his speed of thought and reading of the game was impressive throughout.

His second intercept hammered that point home, pouncing on a loose pass from Johnny McNicholl to punish Wales one final time and get the celebrations underway.

Beauden Barrett scores a try on his 100th cap

Taine Basham provides positive

The final scoreline may have suggested otherwise but there were several positives for Pivac to take from his side’s defeat – most notably the performance of Taine Basham.

Basham took to his first Test start like a duck to water against the mighty All Blacks, having previously come off the bench against Canada and Argentina in the summer.

The 21-year-old flanker won his side three points within seven minutes of the start with a turnover and stole possession again near the half-hour mark as he proved a constant nuisance.

Pivac unsurprisingly described him as Wales’ player of the match while Aaron Wainwright at No.8 also gave the hosts reason for optimism ahead of their next test against the Springboks.

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