Poor Australia. Thanks to 15 of their party having gone somewhat overboard in getting their celebrating in early in Dublin, they were unable to toast their hard-fought victory in Edinburgh with anything stronger than Irn Bru last night.
Ewen McKenzie, the Wallabies prop turned head coach, clearly couldn’t give a XXXX for the kind of Australian sporting heritage upheld by David Boon en route from Sydney to Heathrow when he necked 52 cans of the amber nectar en route to the 1989 Ashes series
Still, Australia had reason to raise a glass of something to mark a momentous success of sorts. Tries by Waratahs full-back Israel Folau and right wing Chris Feaui-Sautia helped the Wallabies to their first win against Scotland for seven years, thwarting Caledonian hopes of emulating 2009 and 2012 upsets against the world’s third ranked nation.
Scotland had Duncan Weir stepping up into the fly-half starting berth instead of Ruaridh Jackson and the equally inexperienced Grant Gilchrist filling the second row berth that had been earmarked for Tim Swinson, the stand out performer in the 42-17 win against Japan a fortnight ago and rested against the Springboks but out of commission with a chest injury.
Scotland were scuffling straight on to the defensive from Quade Cooper’s kick-off. It could have been worse but the damage was limited to a penalty converted by Christian Leali’ifano after Jim Hamilton was pinged for offside.
In the sixth minute Scotland were level. The Wallaby lock Rob Simmons failed to roll away at a ruck and Greg Laidlaw made no mistake with his first penalty attempt.
Scotland maintained the momentum too. Hamilton launched an attack from the rear of a lineout and, after running through the phases, stand-off Duncan Weir got within five metres of the Wallaby whitewash before the move broke down and referee Jerome Garces awarded a penalty out on the right that Laidlaw despatched between the uprights.
That put Scotland 6-3 up with 11 minutes on the clock and they managed to hold on to their advantage into the second quarter thanks to a firm tackle out wide by full back Sean Maitland on winger Joe Tomane and also to a hooked penalty attempt by Leali’ifano. The challenge was firm but fair – unlike the late charge on Maitland after he despatched a clearance kick.
Scotland’s No 15 found himself unceremoniously clattered by Australia’s studs-raised No 10. Cooper just happens to be Maitland’s cousin. They were brought up together in Tokoroa before Cooper’s family emigrated to Australia. Not that they enjoyed the cosiest of reunions. Indeed, Maitland pushed away his kicking cousin.
Weir stepped up to take the ensuing penalty but the distance was outside his range. Four minutes later Leali’ifano landed an equalising penalty and then, in the 26th minute, Scotland messed up a line-out and Cooper fed a deft inside pass for full back Israel Foloau to ghost through an attempted tackle from Ryan Grant and score the opening try.
Leali’ifano’s conversion gave the Wallabies a 13-6 lead but two penalties by Laidlaw pegged the gap to a single point before Scotland came within a whisker of scoring on the counter-attackwhen Sean Lamont,was held up in the left corner by the scrambling Folau.
Three minutes into the second half the good work was undone when Cooper zipped a pass out to Chris Feauai-Sautia and the rookie winger slipped through Maitland’s grasp to score in the corner. Leali’ifano fluffed the conversion, though, and when lock Rob Simmons was sent to the sin bin for punching Moray Low, Laidlaw’s fifth penalty success reduced the Wallaby lead to 18-15.
Still, hopes of a third successive Scotland win against the Wallabies proceeded to fade. Leali’ifano doubled the gap with a penalty and could afford the luxury of three penalty misses by their outside centre as they eased home.
Scotland: S Maitland; T Seymour, N de Luca, D Taylor (M Evans, 66), S Lamont; D Weir, G Laidlaw (C Cusiter, 58); R Grant (A Dickinson, 47), R Ford (P MacArthur, 25) A Low (E Murray, 51), G Gilchrist, J Hamilton, J Beattie, K Brown, D Denton (K Low, 61).
Australia: I Folau; J Tomane, C Leali’ifano, M Harris, C Feauai-Sautia; Q Cooper, W Genia (N White, 66); J Slipper, S Moore (S Fainga’a, 77), S Kepu (B Alexander, 59), R Simmons, J Horwill (S Timani, 59), S Fardy (B McCalman, 76), M Hooper, B Mowen
Referee: J Garces (France).