Rugby World Cup: Wallabies slip past Scotland by single point
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | October 18, 2015
Australia 35-34 Scotland
- Ashley-Cooper crosses for opener and Horne cancels it out
- Laidlaw kicking gave Scots half-time advantage, yet in-form Foley struggles in first 40
- Two tries from Mitchell leads Wallabies revival
- Seymour sets up grandstand finish, Kuridrani and Hooper also on target
- Converted Bennett try takes Cotter’s crew to brink of semis
- Foley rediscovers shooting boots to ensure narrow Aussie victory
Scots suffer heartbreak at Twickenham
Where shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? So reads the opening lines of the Scottish play.
A torrential downpour at Twickenham so nearly gave Scotland a sensational and dramatic win over firm match favourites Australia, but it was the Wallabies who advanced from this topsy-turvy test to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals for the sixth time in eight tournaments.
The Aussies had eliminated England and edged Wales to ensure they avoided South Africa in the quarters, but the unfancied Tartan team took the Southern Hemisphere heavyweights on in heroic fashion, coming up minutely short 35-34 because of Bernard Foley’s controversial late penalty.
Suspended Scots given reprieve
Even with Ross Ford and Jonny Gray available after their respective bans were overturned on appeal, Vern Cotter’s Scots simply couldn’t kick their pesky habit of conceding the first try. Tommy Seymour’s tackle was ridden by Tevita Kuridrani and he offloaded to Adam Ashley-Cooper for a 34th international try.
When Foley, whose boot was largely responsible for conquering two other Home Naions, missed the chance to convert, however, nerves seemed to creep into the Wallabies’ camp. They definitely didn’t have things all their own way here.
Cotter sent his side out to attack the Aussie centre, and collapsing scrums gifted Greig Laidlaw to get penalty points. He also converted Peter Horne’s crossing, who skipped over a ruck at the end of a spell of Scottish pressure to cancel out the opener. From 5-0 down, the Scots suddenly led 5-13.
Jekyll and Hyde from Foley
Fly half Foley’s first-half nightmare continued with a knock-on, being blocked off by Finn Russell after chipping a kick, and missing more penalties and conversions. His previous confidence looked completely drained, but was restored by a decidedly more successful second 40 minutes.
Mitchell brought Australia back into this match on half an hour when found as the spare man wide left, allowing the men from Down Under to go over in the 15th phase of this passage of play.
Tries either side of half-time from Michael Hooper and Mitchell, with his second, turned the contest in the Wallabies’ favour. Ashley Cooper thought he’d crossed again, but a knock-on at the back of the ruck before the Aussies spread play to him was spotted by the TMO.
Aussies encounter stubborn Scots
Scotland’s Sean Maitland spent 10 minutes in the bin for such an infringement, adjudged to have been done deliberately by referee Craig Joubert. With Foley’s range now rediscovered, Australia held a 25-19 advantage.
Surely now Cotter’s crew would fold, or so the Wallabies thought. Seymour had other ideas, however, and was fed by Russell en route to cross on the hour and profit from a rare Aussie error.
Laidlaw couldn’t convert from an acute angle, though, and that left Scotland just one point short of the Southern Hemisphere heavyweights, who burrowed over again themselves through Kuridrani.
Decisive drama ends with Wallabies win
A grandstand finish was ensured by Laidlaw’s latest of five penalties, and then Mark Bennett’s interception as replacement prop James Slipper dithered looked to have resulted in a monumental upset. Converted by Laidlaw, that put Scotland 32-34 up.
Desperately trying to hang on, an over-zealous lineout throw put the Scots in real trouble with an adjudged knock-on, and match official Joubert awarded a penalty that Foley kept his composure with to win the match at the death.
Agonising as this loss is for Cotter and co, to have run Australia so close is a sign of the huge progress a young Scottish side has made in the second half of 2015, after a winless Six Nations campaign and the dreaded wooden spoon.
The Wallabies march on and will have a semi-final against fellow Southern Hemisphere side Argentina, with all four nations still standing at the tournament coming from that part of the world. Coral now make Australia 11/4 second-favourites to win the Rugby World Cup.
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