You wait an age for a victory over Australia... Scotland completed one of the most improbable results of recent seasons to end an embarrassing run of seven consecutive defeats in dramatic fashion thanks to Greig Laidlaw's coolly dispatched penalty with the final kick of the contest. It was the Scots' first win Down Under for 30 years but in fact their second in succession over Australia.
It is a result that gives a new sense of purpose to Andy Robinson's stop-start tenure as Scotland's coach. Three years ago he had launched his management by overseeing defeat of Australia at Murrayfield, Scotland's first against such opponents since that 1982 triumph in Brisbane. Yesterday, in appalling conditions in Newcastle, New South Wales, his side conjured a victory against a home side who dominated territory and possession. It justified the Scottish Rugby Union's decision to issue a vote of confidence in the Englishman, despite a dire Six Nations that ended with a wooden spoon.
"Back-to-back victories against Australia for a Scotland team is immense," said Robinson after watching his side yield 67 per cent possession and 68 per cent territory to the home side.
With a howling gale blowing in support of Scotland in the first half they built a 6-3 lead by the interval through two Laidlaw penalties. Two moments of characteristic sloppy handling saw try-scoring opportunities squandered following breaks by Ross Rennie and Sean Lamont. The first-half territory was Scotland's but the advantage that brought was slender.
With the wind in their favour Australia, who, with an eye on Saturday's Test against Wales, fielded five debutants, set up camp in Scotland's 22 but also failed to breach their opponents' line. Scotland missed just three of 132 tackles over the 80 minutes – the outstanding Rennie making 24 of them.
The lock Rob Simmons did pile over amid a heap of bodies midway through the half but could not ground the ball. Mike Harris's second penalty tied the score and Scotland were hanging on, clearing kicks frequently swirling back, with little ground made. But in the closing minutes Laidlaw made a break and a series of drives and scrums took the tourists towards their opponents' 22. The 80 minutes were done when one final scrum saw Jaco Peyper penalise the Australian front row for taking it down and Laidlaw did the rest.
"They're not the worst conditions I've experienced," said Ross Ford, Scotland's captain and another of the stand-out performers. "But it was right up there. Contrary to popular belief, we prefer playing in dry weather. Our boys just stuck in there and stuck to their task. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure but when we finally got the ball we made the most of it."
Scotland's ball retention was notably better than during a succession of slipshod performances in the Six Nations, although they have now failed to score a try in six of their last nine games as execution again proved beyond them. But, most importantly, a win is a win for Robinson.
"I think it's phenomenal," said Ross of victory over a side ranked second only to world champions New Zealand. "A great morale boost for the squad especially against a side like Australia."
Australia Morahan; Tomane, A Faingaa, Harris, Ioane; Barnes, Genia; Slipper, Moore, Palmer, Timani, Sharpe, Dennis, Pocock, Higginbotham. Replacements Alexander for Palmer (70), Simmons for Timani (55), Hooper for Dennis (65).
Scotland Hogg; Ansbro, De Luca, Scott, Lamont; Laidlaw, Blair; Grant, Ford, Murray, Kellock, Gray, Strokosch, Rennie, Barclay. Replacements Brown for Lamont (39), Cusiter for Blair (64).
Referee Jaco Peyper (South Africa).
Pens: Harris 2.
Pens: Laidlaw 3