It is nevertheless true that Michael Lynagh and Nick Farr-Jones have proved to be as irreplaceable as the Australian front row which won the World Cup five years ago, but John Eales is still there and yesterday that was almost enough. He played the part of 10 men, 11 if you count the number of times Craig Chalmers picked him out from the kick-offs.
The modern game at this level can be measured in the tiniest degrees of accuracy which made Scotland's waywardness and lack of attention to detail in this crucial area unpardonable.
The Scots' strategy of containment and their determination to stifle the Australian maul at source proved effective enough throughout what was an untidy, wearisome and unintelligent first quarter. Unfortunately this tactic failed to take account of Scotland's most potent weapon which, beyond the shadow of a doubt, was Gregor Townsend. He has a rare talent which he revels in displaying. The problem for Scotland was in finding anyone remotely tuned to his wavelength.
When, with one blistering run and exquisite pass he carved out a mighty hole for Tony Stanger, the Scots, with a two-man overlap, were still unable to score. His speed of thought, his electrifying pace and his weight of pass are hard enough to see on the field, impossible to follow off it. He is nevertheless one of the great sights of modern rugby.
It was from his cleverly disguised long pass that Kenny Logan scored Scotland's try midway through the second half which brought the Scots out of the shell which they mistakenly thought had been protecting them from the avalanche of Australian runners.
It was only then, far too late, that Scotland discovered that when it came to swift penetrative counter attacks they were not only the equal of their opponents but were infinitely superior. With Townsend as the fulcrum of the attacks there were any number of willing and able helpers to support him, notably Rowen Shepherd, Ronnie Eriksson and Logan. By this time though there was too much to do. The Australians had tied up the match in the first half with their relentless drives targeted at the midfield. Warwick Waugh, Daniel Manu and Eales broke down the doors and when Daniel Herbert, Pat Howard or Tim Horan were unable to run through, Matthew Burke kicked the goals. Seven in total with five penalties and two conversions.
If in that first half the Australians had possessed composure and fluency at half-back the Scots' plight would have been much worse. But David Knox and Sam Payne spent so much of their time at odds with each other and with the general game plan that the Australians fired only fitfully.
So uncomfortable was Payne at one stage that the thought occurred that he might go down in history as being the first player to be tactically substituted in an international match. But this honour was reserved for Brett Robinson who came on midway through the second half for Owen Finegan on the flank.
Burke kicked his first penalty to match Shepherd's first for Scotland after four minutes and Waugh scored the first try eight minutes later. It was from a line-out which the Wallabies immediately developed into a maul and in a game of `spot the player with the ball' at least three Scots stuck their pins in the wrong place. When the final segment of orange peeled away across the line it was Waugh who touched down.
The Scots at this stage were holding on but only just. Shepherd kicked the second penalty but with the Scottish scrummage creaking and so many of their resources deployed to contain Eales at the line-out, their back row couldn't make any impact. The Australians switched between the bludgeon and the rapier but to its credit the Scottish defence held out, very often illegally as it happened and Burke with deliberate accuracy kicked another three penalties before half-time.
Whether through fatigue or complacency the tourists lost the pace for large sections of the second half. Only once did we catch a glimpse of them at full stretch. The criminally neglected Horan made ground on the right and from one of the few rucks from which the Wallabies got quick clearance the ball moved at electrifying pace to Herbert for the try. Tony Stanger's try in the final minute, awarded despite the fact that he was a yard in touch and didn't touch the ball down, was at least some reward for a brave but ultimately disappointing Scottish performance.
Scotland: R Shepherd (Melrose); T Stanger (Hawick), G Townsend (Northampton, capt), R Eriksson (London Scottish), K Logan (Stirling County); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Newcastle); D Hilton (Bath), K McKenzie (Stirling County), B Stewart (Edinburgh Academicals), D Cronin (Wasps), D Weir (Newcastle), M Wallace (Glasgow High School/Kelvinside), I Smith (Gloucester), E Peters (Bath). Replacement: B Redpath (Melrose) for Armstrong, 76.
Australia: M Burke (New South Wales); T Horan (Queensland), D Herbert (Queensland), P Howard (Australian Capital Territory), J Roff (Australian Capital Territory); D Knox (Australian Capital Territory), S Payne (New South Wales); R Harry (New South Wales), M Foley (Queensland), A Blades (New South Wales), W Waugh (New South Wales), J Eales (Queensland, capt), O Finegan (Australian Capital Territory), D Wilson (Queensland), D Manu (New South Wales). Replacement: B Robinson (Australian Capital Territory) for Finegan 63.
Referee: P Thomas (France).Reuse content