AUSTRALIA captain Ben Mowen admitted to feeling a great relief at the final whistle on Saturday after a torrid week for his squad.
The Brumbies No 8, who only made his Test debut this year and took over as the Wallabies’ skipper ahead of this tour, was a key figure in pirating a number of Scotland lineouts, most notably three minutes from the end as he and lock Rob Simmons got themselves higher than Jim Hamilton to snatch a ball Scotland were hopeful of driving to a match-winning try.
That, Mowen said, was an indication of the desire of this Wallabies side to end their losing streak against Scotland before it hit three again, after a week in which six players – Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Liam Gill and Paddy Ryan – were suspended and nine more handed warnings for late-night drinking in Dublin before the Ireland Test.
“We wanted a strong win to show people that this group is well and truly united and I think we got that,” he said.
“The guys worked hard against a very spirited Scottish side that just kept coming and to go three wins on the trot coming into a big Test week to finish off the year says a lot about the guys.
“I think all that happened [suspensions] made us a little bit tighter to be honest, because you see guys who are extremely disappointed to be missing out and a lot of different emotions going into those moments, but we just drew together and worked extremely hard.
“We spoke about it during the week, that we needed a good reaction from the guys, and that was a great feeling at the end to grind out that win. I’ve got to pay credit to a lot of the guys outside the 23 players each week who got their opportunity in this game and for Chris Feauai-Sautia to get that try was really important for the momentum of the side.
“This wasn’t just a throwaway Test,” he continued. “It was really important for us and I think you could see that in areas of the game. It was a massive win. It gave us three in a row, a win against a side we’d lost the last two times against and Murrayfield is an extremely tough place to come and play because they always show up and play with a great spirit and they delivered on that again.”
He agreed that the tackle by Israel Folau on Sean Lamont and the try-line defence at the end of the first half was a key period in the game, as was the stolen lineout at the finish, both denying a rampant Scotland the try that could have put them ahead.
“There were some critical moments in the game and they went our way and that’s what split us in the end.
“It was extremely tough. To hold them out at the end when the crowd was really getting behind them and they were really building momentum through the last ten minutes I think showed great character through our side.”
Looking back on the fact that what was once a virtual certain win for Australia, with 27 years between Scottish victories in 1982 and 2009, Mowen insisted that the recent Tests were more of a reflection of Scotland’s improvement than a drop-off by Australia.
“Scottish rugby is definitely on the up,” he added. “They have some great young players there and I know that Scotty Johnson is looking to create a good, strong squad going through to the next World Cup, and they are led extremely well by Kelly Brown. When you have that make-up there of a strong leader and young guys who are very enthusiastic about the jersey it’s a pretty powerful thing.
“We found that back in Newcastle in June and we got what we expected again here; a tough, physical Test match that we were glad to come out on the right side of.”