Scotland defeat streaking Wallabies 15-13
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scotland defied the odds to upend Australia 15-13 in an edgy rugby test at a packed Murrayfield on Sunday.
The Scots brought back their Six Nations side after the 60-point romp over Tonga last weekend, and were undercooked compared to a Wallabies team on a five-match winning roll out of the Rugby Championship.
But two teams with similar attacking intent and style were over-exuberant and tried to force too much. The game descended into a ragged, tight affair which suited Scotland, which improved the longer it went. Scotland scored two tries to one.
“The exciting thing is that we can get better in set-piece and open play,” Scotland captain Stuart Hogg said.
Australia was brilliant while it had a man in the sin-bin bridging the interval, scoring 10 points to lead after a halftime deficit.
Scotland’s belief was growing, however, its scrum was dominating, and it retook the lead with a superb corner try by replacement hooker Ewan Ashman on debut.
James O’Connor’s second penalty put Australia up by one with 15 minutes to go, but Scotland counterpart Finn Russell kicked the home side ahead in the 69th and they held on comfortably to beat the Wallabies a third straight time.
“At halftime we knew we hadn’t played our best rugby, but there was a fire about us in that second half which was great to see, and there was an edge to our set-piece,” said Gregor Townsend, unbeaten against Australia as the Scotland coach.
Scotland flanker Hamish Watson scored the only try of an error-prone first half, powering over from a beautifully executed lineout move that fooled Australia.
Australia thought it was going to equalize just before halftime when captain Michael Hooper reached out and touched down. But in a double blow, the try was canceled and Allan Ala’alatoa was sin-binned. Romain Poite, refereeing his 73rd and last test, harshly decided the prop’s glancing touch of the chin of Scotland No. 8 Matt Fagerson was a yellow card offense.
A 14-man Australia responded superbly with a penalty by O’Connor, playing his first test in Britain in 10 years, and a converted try by flanker Rob Leota, set up by replacement back Izaia Perese in an impressive debut. They led 10-7.
Scotland fired back and was denied by a try-saving tackle by Nic White, but when Perese looked to be driving Ashman over the sideline, the hooker somehow dotted the ball in the left corner. It was no surprise. Ashman was the top try-scorer at the under-20 world championship in 2019.
O’Connor edged Australia back in front in the 65th but Russell replied in kind for 15-13 after a fourth penalty against the Australia scrum.
Australia didn’t threaten a fifth lead change over the last 11 minutes and Scotland won out, on attack, to the delight of its first home crowd in 20 months, 67,000 strong.
“We got caught at our end in the last 20 (minutes) with a lack of discipline and decision making,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.
“We got penalized in possession a bit when we thought we had them under pressure and we struggled to get our game going.”
Australia goes to England next Saturday, when Scotland welcomes world champion South Africa.
“Something special is building here,” Watson said.
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