At that point, it would have been hard to argue that Australia, so dominant
for the previous 15 minutes, were not worth a try. Yet at the finish it
would have been even harder to make the case that Scotland’s deserved to
lose after such a heroic performance in defence. Time and again, Australia
hammered away at them round the fringes, and time and again they were
chopped down by Scottish tacklers. Scotland produced one of the great
defensive performances when they beat Australia 9-8 at Murrayfield in 2009,
but this was at a level even higher.
Nor did they have to ride their luck, as they did in the Murrayfield match
when Matt Giteau hooked a last-minute conversion wide. They were stern,
resolute and wonderfully well organised throughout. At half-time, sitting on
a perilously slim 6-3 lead as they turned to face the elements, it looked as
if they had blown their chance of victory, but they found reserves of
courage as the game went on before Laidlaw delivered his dramatic coup de
The irony was that Laidlaw had been far short of his best earlier in the game.
He misjudged his first penalty effort, in the 16th minute, and he butchered
a try-scoring chance soon afterwards with a lurid knock-on. But the little
fly-half lacks nothing as far as character is concerned and he put those
setbacks behind him brilliantly. By the end, he was a commanding presence.
It is no disrespect to the Scottish backline, starved of chances by the
horrendous conditions, to say that the heroes of the hour were almost all in
the pack. The back row of Al Strokosch, Rennie and John Barclay were all
immense, and the energy levels of the locks, Richie Gray and Al Kellock,
were astonishing. Ross Ford struggled to cope with the wind at the lineouts,
but he was a powerful presence in every other aspect of the game as he took
his first win as captain.
Laidlaw had prodded Scotland into a 6-0 lead with penalties in the 23rd and
28th minutes, but in a game that had produced three turnovers in the first
two minutes it was clear that the weather was always going to have a massive
influence. And with Scotland’s advantage cut to three points by Mike
Harris’s 32nd minute penalty, the wind seemed to be swinging Australia’s
way, in every sense, as the second period began.
Harris kicked his second penalty in the 42nd minute, and the suspicion then
was that Australia would cruise to a 20-point win. That they could not came
down to the fact that Scotland had a significant edge in the scrum – it
would have been more significant still had Peyper taken Australia to task
much earlier – and a bottomless well of fortitude. Laidlaw’s winning penalty
may have come from their first decent foray into Australian territory in the
second half, but victory was no less deserved because of that.
Scoring: Scotland: Penalty goals: Greig Laidlaw (3) Australia: Penalty
goals: Mike Harris (2)
Australia: Luke Morahan; Joe Tomane, Anthony Fainga’a, Mike Harris,
Digby Ioane; Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock
(capt), Dave Dennis (65); Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani (Rob Simmons 54);
Dan Palmer (Ben Alexander 70), Stephen Moore, James Slipper.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, Nick Phipps, Pat McCabe, Adam
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Joe Ansbro, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Sean
Lamont (Tom Brown 39); Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair (Chris Cusiter 64); Ryan
Grant, Ross Ford (capt), Euan Murray; Alastair Kellock, Richie Gray;
Alasdair Strokosch, Ross Rennie, John Barclay.
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Jon Welsh, Tom Ryder, Richie Vernon, Duncan
Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)
Article source: http://telegraph.feedsportal.com/c/32726/f/568303/s/20094a7e/l/0L0Stelegraph0O0Csport0Crugbyunion0Cinternational0Cscotland0C93117510CAustralia0E60EScotland0E90Ematch0Ereport0Bhtml/story01.htm