OPPORTUNITIES to play against New Zealand do not come around regularly for Scotland these days – yesterday’s match at BT Murrayfield was the first time the teams had met since the memorable clash of 2017, when Stuart Hogg was denied what would have been an equalising try in the final minute.

And genuine opportunities to beat the All Blacks are even less frequent. Scotland may have drawn the fixture twice and lost by a mere three points on two other occasions, but leading by nine points with three-quarters of the game having been played?

No wonder, then, that Gregor Townsend said after his team’s 31-23 defeat that he wished they could play against New Zealand more often.

“It’s galling we don’t get to play New Zealand every couple of years like we used to,” he said after a late rally by the tourists had denied him the chance to go down in history as the first head coach of Scotland to mastermind a victory over them.

“It has been five years. That will be the biggest lead we have had over New Zealand in our history and we didn’t win.

“What is disappointing is you don’t get to play New Zealand [very often]. And we have never beaten them in our history. So when you play like that and get a lead, you feel you should win – and we didn’t.”

What was particularly impressive about the way Scotland took control of the middle portion of the game was the self-belief they showed to recover from an early 14-0 deficit. At that point it looked like Scotland were on course for an embarrassingly one-sided game, but instead Townsend’s team first drew level with, and then edged ahead of, their opponents.

Yet while there was no doubt a lot to be pleased with in that portion of the contest that stretched from the seventh minute to just after the hour, the head coach highlighted the chances his team had missed to go even further ahead – indeed, possibly out of sight.

“A couple of times we got over the try line,” he added. “The one in the first half was really good play by them – [Ardie] Savea timed that well, but we should have shifted the ball a bit wider.

“The one in the second half was bad luck – the way the off-load went to Ali [Price], the defence got the advantage. There was Darcy’s one, which was millimetres away from a try as well,” he added, referring to the touchdown by Graham which was chalked off because the winger put a toe into touch before his acrobatic leap over the line.

“Those three occasions you increase your lead. We scored 23 points to nil during a 50-minute period. With those margins you have to kick on and win. You have to see out the win and we did not do that.

“We were nine points up and controlled a fair bit of our own destiny in those last 15 minutes. New Zealand were always going to come back into it, and we allowed them to get better field positions and penalties.”

All Blacks coach Ian Foster was generous in his praise of his hosts, and quietly satisfied by the patient and efficient way in which his players set about rescuing the game from a tricky position.

“We’re delighted to come to Murrayfield on this tour for a game that we’ve always found is extremely difficult – particularly this year against a Scottish team that we think has grown in strength and is on the rise,” he said. “And they’ve shown they’ve been able to win some big Tests the last two years.

“It was one we were a little bit nervous about, so I was delighted to come away with a good win. I’m pleased for many reasons.

“One is the composure shown in the last 20. When you’re away from home against a team that has got their tails up it’s hard to turn that around.

“And I thought the work done by Sammy [captain Sam Whitelock] and the leaders on the park – and the bench in particular – gave us a lot of composure and enabled us to finish that Test very strong. So it’s a win we’re very proud of.”