Heroic Scotland secure cathartic victory
November 21, 2009
Scotland secured a famous, dramatic victory at Murrayfield
© Getty Images
John Barclay John Beattie Ryan Cross Chris Cusiter Robbie Deans Rocky Elsom Will Genia Nathan Hines Digby Ioane Drew Mitchell David Pocock Andy Robinson George Smith
Scotland produced a heroic defensive display to defeat Australia 9-8 in their showdown at Murrayfield and end a 27-year wait for victory over the Wallabies.
Australia fly-half Matt Giteau missed a conversion with the last kick of the game to hand victory to the Scots after Ryan Cross had given the tourists a lifeline with an injury-time try. Scotland had taken control of the contest with two penalties from Phil Godman and a towering drop-goal from Chris Paterson in windswept Edinburgh.
New Scotland coach Andy Robinson, who took charge of the team in the summer, was jubilant at the final whistle following a battling performance that will inject new life into his side. They face Argentina next weekend and are eyeing a 100% return from their November series following their victory over Fiji last weekend.
Giteau gave the Wallabies an early lead by curling in a picturesque penalty but Scotland's resolute defence repelled the visitors' early surges. The bulky Wycliff Palu was conspicuous with ball in hand as the Wallabies rumbled towards the Scottish line but a combination of Australian-born lock Nathan Hines and No.8 Johnnie Beattie smashed the Waratahs No.8 and drew a welcome pressure-relieving penalty.
Australia kept the pressure on but wing Drew Mitchell, a try-scorer last weekend against Ireland, was clobbered into touch by Sean Lamont. Scotland skipper Chris Cusiter looked lively in the opening exchanges, but one quick tap left Worcester centre Alex Grove in a world of trouble as Peter Hynes read the loop pass and levelled the man winning his second cap.
Cusiter took a heavy knock to the head while tackling Adam Ashley-Cooper but retained enough awareness to pull off a superb try-saving tackle on Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore. The No.2 rumbled towards the line after a snappy break from Giteau but Cusiter was able to get his body under the ball.
It proved to be his last involvement, though, and with his co-skipper Mike Blair also out injured the scrum-half duties fell to Rory Lawson, pulled from the Scotland 'A' side at short notice. Lawson immediately got stuck in to his task, barking at his forwards as they sensibly rumbled a maul forward in torrential conditions. Australia dragged the Scots to the ground and Godman stepped up to land a sweetly-struck penalty to level the scores.
The Scottish scrum came under pressure shortly after, with Sekope Kepu turning the screw. Giteau was handed a straightforward chance to secure a narrow half-time lead but uncharacteristically pushed his shot wide. Palu's physicality again produced good territory for Australia but as the clock ticked towards 40 minutes Giteau could only conjure a missed drop-goal.
The conditions continued to affect his kicking as a penalty straight after the resumption fell short and wide. Kepu continued to exert his dominance at the scrum and won one against the head for Australia. Palu's burst from the base produced only a scrum to Scotland, though, as Kepu popped up to knock-on in midfield.
Elsom surged for the Scottish line as Australia kept the pressure on, the Australian skipper held up over the line. Scotland failed time and again to clear their lines and their visitors set up shop in the 22.
A rare breakout by Scotland allowed Nick de Luca to pin Will Genia in the corner with a well-judged kick. The Scotland chasers drew a penalty from the diminutive Wallaby but their decision to go for the sticks was not rewarded as Godman's kick sailed across the face.
Dean Mumm's interference at a hulking Scottish maul handed the Edinburgh stand-off another chance and this time, with the help of the upright, he converted the opportunity for an unlikely lead.
Giteau's poor game continued when he smacked the restart out on the full but Scotland were unable to capitalise from their scrum on halfway.
The Wallabies' chance to draw level came with a dangerous tackle by Scotland, but scrum-half Luke Burgess took a quick tap. Giteau fired the ball to Quade Cooper, who sent a looping pass out to Drew Mitchell, who cut inside and trotted over the line. The whistle of referee Romain Poite checked his progress, though, as Cooper's pass was adjudged correctly to have been forward.
Another bout of kicking helped the clock towards the Promised Land for Scotland, but Sean Lamont spilled a simple take after a kick from Cooper. More powerful Scottish defence raised the decibel level inside Murrayfield and Giteau forced a final pass to Hynes, the ball dropping harmlessly behind the wing and allowing Paterson to clear.
Barclay, superb all game, ripped the ball from Elsom on the floor, winning a turnover as the clock ticked to 74 minutes. Paterson pinged the ball to touch and Scotland inched forward through Ross Ford and Ally Kellock. Paterson dropped back in to the pocket and fired over a textbook drop-goal as Scotland began to believe.
Lawson cleared the restart long and Australia's replacement scrum-half Luke Burgess coughed up a knock-on that proved very popular with the Murrayfield faithful. Their scrum was not up to the challenge though and conceded a free-kick. The Wallabies took it quickly and a sniping break from James O'Connor had Scottish hearts in mouths.
They recycled possession and laid siege to the Scottish line, with home defenders throwing everything at the attacking side. Giteau finally took the ball out wide, finding Cross who couldn't miss from a yard out. The same unfortunately couldn't be said of Giteau, who lined up the conversion and produced a horrible hook wide to spark wild celebrations.
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall