12 Nov MATCH REPORT | Scotland 22-23 Australia
The recent history of matches between Scotland and Australia was replicated in front of a record BT Murrayfield attendance for the fixture. Another titanic struggle, another game of epic fluidity but sadly for Scotland, who had built up a nine-points advantage early in the second-half, it was a game that just eluded them.
It was no consolation that Scotland outscored the Australians three tries to two but the statistic that will exercise the home coaches was the penalties conceded particularly in the closing quarter.
Peter Vardy Man of the Match was Scotland centre Huw Jones, whose first-half try brace was the first such claimed by a Scotsman in a match against Australia.
Scotland kicked off and were soon on the attack as Finn Russell collected an Australian clearance and Stuart Hogg launched an audacious counter-attack.
Alex Dunbar carried on into the Australian 22 and the net result was a penalty which Greig Laidlaw goaled.
Scotland guddled the restart and were immediately in defensive mode but a double tackle by Russell and new cap Allan Dell on Sekope Kepu forced a knock-on.
An offside penalty off the scrum saw Scotland find breathing space and then strike with exhilarating precision from the first lineout.
Gray secured possession and Russell chipped ahead. Huw Jones pouched and raced 45 metres for a superb try – quite a way to mark his first international start and first Scotland outing at BT Murrayfield. Laidlaw converted and Scotland led 10-0 after eight minutes.
As Scotland lost Richie Gray for attention to a head knock – Grant Gilchrist coming on as temporary replacement – Australia put their first points on the board. Rory Arnold was the source of lineout ball, Bernard Foley on the wrap around and a well-timed intrusion enabled Reece Hodge to break tackle for a 13th minute try. Foley converted.
From a driving maul Australia again found ominous space and it took a timely interception from Jones to rescue Scotland.
Australia levelled in the 22nd minute through Foley after Scotland were adjudged to have deliberately slewed a scrum just outside their 22.
Laidlaw was just short with a long-range penalty before BT Murrayfield rose to acclaim a cracking Scotland try in the 26th minute.
Jones was involved in its creation, releasing Visser in the narrowest of spaces close to the left touchline. Then Russell had a threatening dart inside the Wallabies 22 allowing Richie Gray to thunder on. When Laidlaw went left, Zander Fagerson was the link for Jones to scuttle past the visitors’ defence for his second try. Laidlaw converted.
Half-time: Scotland 17 Australia 10
Within one minute of the restart, Australia cut the deficit through Foley’s second penalty.
Dell, was having the liveliest of debuts in open play and after Hogg had all but engineered an opening on the right, Scotland recycled for Jonny Gray to score his second international try – duly confirmed by referee Lacey after TMO Simon McDowell had been called upon. Laidlaw’s conversion struck the right hand upright but stayed out. Scotland thus led 22-13 after 48 minutes.
Dell departed to be replaced by Gordon Reid and at the latter’s first scrum, Australia were awarded a penalty which Foley duly notched.
The game endured a quieter period, which considering the rich tempo that had been maintained throughout was perhaps not surprising but it needed a fillip for the home support and it all but materialised as from a Hogg kick-ahead Visser was just unable to gather.
Gilchrist, who had been reintroduced for Hardie, was then penalised for obstruction to quell that home attack and it seemed as if the momentum was with the visitors in spite of Scotland’s six point lead..
Scotland were under the cosh as Foley opted for touchline and the inevitable driving maul. A penalty for Australia was awarded but it was reversed for foul play by Skelton who was sent to the sin bin on the 68th minute.
Scotland were still being pinned in their own territory until Hogg and Visser combined on the West Stand touchline, a foot in touch on the visitors’ ten metres line thwarting any further advance.
The penalty count was mounting against the Scots and from another penalty to touch, ball was retained – in spite of a concerted counter drive from the home pack – for Australia to work it out to Tevita Kuridrani and the powerful centre did just enough to touchdown. Foley converted and Australia had a one point lead with just over three minutes remaining – sound familiar?
Was there to be a sting left in this particular tail? Sadly not. A free kick at a scrum when the clock had gone red saw Scotland mount a desperate sequence of attacks but there was to be no way through the Wallabies defence.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN; Allan Dell, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson. Substitutes: Fraser Brown for Ford (55′), Gordon Reid for Dell (51′), Moray Low for Fagerson (67′), Grant Gilchrist temp sub (12-21′), then for Hardie (61′), John Hardie for Wilson (5′), Ali Price, Peter Horne for Dunbar (68′), Rory Hughes.
Australia: Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Reece Hodge, Henry Speight; Brendan Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore CAPTAIN, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Lopeti Timani. Substitutes: Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson for Sio 72 mins, Allan Alaalatoa for Kepu 61 mins), Rob Simmons for Coleman 5 mins, Will Skelton for Timani 61 mins, Dean Mumm for Arnold 46mins, Nick Phipps for Genia 68 mins, Quade Cooper.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland).
Peter Vardy Man of the Match: Huw Jones (Scotland).