JON CARDINELLI watched Greig Laidlaw kick an injury-time penalty to hand Scotland a 9-6 victory, their first on Australian soil in 30 years.
Apart from breaking a long drought in Australia, the result also marks Scotland’s second consecutive win against the Wallabies. In 2009, they beat Robbie Deans’ side 9-8 in Edinburgh. Three years later in driving rain and gale force winds, they showed remarkable determination to repeat the unlikely feat.
It would be fair to say the Scots were more at home in such conditions, and that the wet weather prevented the Wallabies from playing a high-tempo game. However, both teams had to contend with what was an oppressive wind. It was a game of two halves in that whoever played against the wind was at a severe disadvantage.
The Aussies battled to get out of their own territory in the first half. Every garryowen launched by their halfbacks drifted backwards. Every attempted clearance was fortunate to make it to touch.
Australia were also beaten at the tackle point in the first stanza, and had Scotland capitalised on further scoring chances, they may have gone to the break with more than a 6-3 lead. As it was, Scotland conceded too much possession on attack. They went into the second half knowing that they didn’t have a substantial lead to defend.
And yet, defend they did. Like Australia, they struggled to escape from their own 22 because of the wind, and their determined tackling and superiority at the collisions saved them from conceding far more points.
Australia had their chances to put this side away. Mike Harris missed two shots at goal in the second half, while flyhalf Berrick Barnes also sent a drop-goal attempt wide. But the biggest mistake made on the night was by Wallabies skipper David Pocock, who after 54 minutes opted to put a kickable penalty into touch.
Australia spent the next 10 minutes trying to cross Scotland’s tryline. They succeeded in driving over at one point only to be told by the TMO that there was inconclusive evidence that the ball had been grounded.
Scotland absorbed a lot of pressure during this period, but always maintained their aggression at the tackle. It was this fighting spirit in contact that allowed them to eventually move into a position to score more points.
After spending the entire second half in their own territory, Scotland crossed the halfway line as late as the 75th minute. A break out wide created the momentum, and from there Scotland showed terrific patience to keep the ball and pressure Australia into a mistake.
At one point it seemed as if they were attempting to kill the clock and take the draw. They won a scrum in the last movement of the game, and most would have expected them to kick it out or have a wild attempt at a drop goal. Playing against a gale force wind, not many would have expected them to sink a three-pointer.
But the Wallabies scrum folded under the pressure and the Scots celebrated as if they had already won the match. Laidlaw then held his nerve to nail the heart-breaker, a kick that will go down as one of the most important in Scotland’s rugby history.
For Australia, the match in Newcastle will be remembered as a horrific one for a number of reasons.