This game might have started the way many would have expected, but it didn’t carry on that way for long. Australia set a very high pace from the get go and eventually crossed for a well-worked try after a Tevita Kuridrani break.
Scotland bit back, however, and came away with points from their next three visits to Australian territory. The Wallabies didn't panic after dropped balls and collapsed scrums, putting together 16 ferocious phases that stretched the Scottish defence too thin.
Scotland themselves continued to match Australia's pace and Willem Nel had the vaunted Scott Sio on toast. The main difference between the teams, however, was the kicker. Greig Laidlaw kept the points ticking over as he has for much of the tournament and even when Scotland succumbed to their achilles heel of the driving line-out, Bernard Foley could not add the extras.
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Down three tries to one, Scotland still went into the changing rooms in the lead against all odds.
The start of the second-half saw Foley continue his unconfident display which will have boosted the Scottish prospects. Their optimism was duly squashed by a debatable yellow card, allowing Australia to push on with more driving line-outs and for Foley to slot his first of the afternoon under less pressure.
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If Scottish supporters felt hard done by the yellow card, it was compensated by referee Craig Joubert, who spotted the slightest of knock-ons by Will Genia to reverse the decision for what could have been a winning score.
Scotland's highest tally against Australia
The crowd had started to go slightly flat with it appearing that the Australian class would pull away from Scotland on the scoreboard, but an opportunistic charge down from Finn Russell and outstanding support from Tommy Seymour brought them to within one point, as well as racking up their highest ever tally against the Wallabies.
Australia were galvanised in response - and the pressure they applied eventually told through another powerful burst from Kuridrani to continue the theme of the quarter-finals being punch-counter-punch rugby.
As the rain came down, it looked like Scotland’s chances were more or less gone, but indecision in the Australian ranks allowed another opportunistic run in, this time for Mark Bennett. The conversion gave the heaviest underdogs of the weekend the lead late on.
Down to the wire
This match might have looked the easiest to predict on paper before the weekend, but once again the result went down to the wire. An unfortunate penalty after an overthrown line-out gave Foley the chance to eradicate his previous errors, and under the most intense of scrutiny he delivered to edge the victory.
Australia came into the game as heavy favourites and in the end they needed a hugely controversial refereeing decision to ensure an all southern hemisphere semi-finals. Scotland were arguably the better team on the day, and Australia will need to be several degrees better to challenge the outstanding Pumas.
It is a shame that the headlines from this match will not be Australia’s clinical exploitation of circumstance, but two hugely influential refereeing decisions that directly cost Scotland ten points.
Refereeing decisions ebb and flow, and decisions can always be seen two ways - that is the nature of rugby. The disgrace lies with the refusal to use the TMO at the most crucial juncture. Given its constant referral in the modern game, a decision of this magnitude had to be reexamined.
This was a slightly disappointing end to a weekend of four unique and breathtaking matches. In the four matches, 11 tries were scored by wingers, which is testament to the intent of every nation and the emphasis on attacking rugby. Both semi-finals promise to be of similar ilk, and it will be fascinating to see which team can continue to execute as the pressure ratchets up.
Were Scotland unlucky to lose their quarter-final to Australia? Give your opinion in the comment box below!
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