A rare and memorable win
December 6, 1975
Scotland's Sandy Carmichael and Gordon Brown run out before the match with Australia
© PA Photos
Scotland achieved a noteworthy win over Australia back in 1975, providing rich entertainment for the Murrayfield crowd in an evenly matched contest. Australia's inability to convert their fine work into points, and one careless error just before half-time, cost them dear.
The visitors, known as the 'sixth Wallabies', were only the fifth Australian touring party to undertake a full tour of Britain and Ireland. The 'second Wallabies' of 1939-40 had returned home without playing a match at the outbreak of World War II.
The Wallabies came into the match on the back of six consecutive wins; Scotland had won their previous nine games at Murrayfield. Five experienced British Lions lined up for Scotland, Andy Irvine and Ian McGeechan among them in the backs, Sandy Carmichael, Ian 'Mighty Mouse' McLauchlan and Gordon Brown in the forward pack. A further three backs, Bruce Hay, Jim Renwick and Doug Morgan were to become Lions later in their careers.
The battle up front would be crucial. Scotland held the edge on paper, but the Wallaby front five had gained confidence from their excellent showing at Swansea a week before, and had the upper hand in the early set pieces here. Their back row, deprived by injury of Mark Loane and Ray Price, had an average age under 22, but David 'Spider' Hillhouse, Tony Shaw and Greg Cornelsen played beyond their years. Hillhouse, in particular, was productive in the lineout.
Scotland, for all their experience and ability, had scored only two tries in the 1975 Five Nations Championship and were under pressure to produce what the names in the programme were capable of. The forwards would have to nail down their Wallabies counterparts to allow the pace and skill behind them a chance to prove itself.
Brown and Alastair McHarg were coming into their own at the lineout by the second quarter, having survived the first 20 minutes thanks, in part, to Australia's poor finishing. Australia broke the Scottish midfield defence several times, but were denied scores by desperate cover tackling or poor final passes.
So it was against the run of play that Scotland opened the scoring after 26 minutes. Scrum-half Doug Morgan broke to the short side on the right, scissored with No.8 George Mackie and then flung a long, overhead pass left to McGeechan who curved away to his left through an inviting gap. Full back Bruce Hay took McGeechan's pass on the outside and fed on to Lewis Dick who crashed through Paul McLean's tackle to touch down in the corner. Morgan missed the conversion.
Australia continued to threaten with switch moves involving many pairs of hands, all to no avail. Well into first half injury time, fly-half Jim Hindmarsh floated a poor, high pass over both his centres which rebounded off McLean's chest directly into the hands of a grateful McGeechan. Australian skipper John Hipwell caught McGeechan from behind but he had time to slip a pass to Jim Renwick who raced 40 yards to score under the posts, Irvine at his side but not required. Morgan added the conversion.
Australia's misfortune was to turn around 10-0 down when, according to Rothmans Rugby Yearbook "they could have been 10 points up instead".
Buoyed more by the score line than their first half performance, Scotland raised their game in the second half. Their defence was such that Australia would not find a way through, wing Paddy Batch being brought down by Hay on the only occasion they threatened the try line. McLean's 40-yard penalty was insufficient to bring the Wallabies back into the game, and they were left to wonder how they came away from the game with so little, having contributed so much.
Victory then, to the more experienced Scots, whose bravery in defence and opportunism in attack put them in front, and whose thundering forwards kept their opponents at bay after the interval.
Australia's tour continued with heavy defeats to Wales and England. It was not until the second half of their match with Ireland that they scored an international try, finishing with three tries in a 20-10 victory. Scotland managed two more wins over Australia, at Murrayfield in 1981 and Brisbane in 1982, before a horror run of 16 consecutive defeats by an average margin of 22 points, over 25 years.
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