Matt Giteau missed a last-minute conversion in Australia’s 9-8 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.
Australia scored with the last move of the game – 20-phases of desperate attack finally culminating in Ryan Cross reducing the deficit to one point. But Giteau, who sunk just one of four attempts at goal, pushed the crucial kick, which saw Scotland break a 16-Test losing streak against the Wallabies.
It was a victory built on the bravest defensive display of any Test match this season. Perhaps one of the best in history. This report won’t reflect the exact number of tackles Scotland executed, but there is absolutely no doubt it was triple that of Australia.
Australia entered Scotland’s 22m area 43 times, but it was testament to the hosts’ immense defensive effort that they took 80 minutes to breach them.
Their physical, patient defence often forced the Wallabies to go lateral in their attacks. In addition, their strong ruck contest meant the visitors never got any flow and momentum into their attack, which aided their defensive task.
This was an awful performance from Robbie Deans’s charges – marked by fundamental handling errors, poor decision making and tactical naivety.
Australia seemed stuck between an expansive and pragmatic style, and the hybrid was an ugly, ineffective one.
They became even more disjointed when rain began to pelt down on the famous ground. In light of the testing conditions, they reverted to a kick-chase strategy, which failed to yield the desired results due to the poor execution of those punts.
When they did enter the Scottish red zone they looked devoid of creativity and conspired to botch a number of scoring opportunities, the worst offender being Stephen Moore, who, in the first half, broke through the midfield defence, but had neither the pace nor power to cross the tryline.
Giteau had earlier kicked a penalty to give his side the lead, but the pivot then missed the most elementary goal attempt and later skewed a drop goal from in front of the posts and under no pressure.
Scottish flyhalf Phil Godman’s penalty meant the sides went into half-time level at three all, despite the Wallabies having absolutely dominated possession and territory.
Giteau failed to shake his kicking woes, and missed his first pot at the posts in the second half. Scotland then turned over possession thrice in as many minutes on their five metre line, underlining Australia’s inability to capitalise on excellent scoring opportunities.
Scotland’s first real chance at five points came when they isolated Will Genia close to his tryline. Godman failed to convert the resultant penalty, but made no mistake with the next one, which unbelievably took his side into the lead.
Quade Cooper then butchered a superb scoring chance by opting to spin a pass wide to Drew Mitchell when he should have taken the simple option of offloading to Peter Hynes, who would have cantered in for the try.
Even so, one wondered how long the Scots could sustain their defensive effort and they answered that question emphatically by refusing to allow anyone in a gold shirt to make a metre – that until Cross ignited hope of victory with his late score. But Giteau didn’t even get his kick close to breaking Scottish hearts.
By Ryan Vrede