It proved third time unlucky for Scotland, who went down to their second defeat of the autumn Test series while bidding for a third successive win over the Wallabies.
Scorers: Scotland: Pen: Laidlaw (5)
Australia: Tries: Folau, Feanui-Sautia Con: Leali’ifano. Pen: Leali’ifano (3)
It was all a little predictable, with the Scots scoring five penalties and the visitors scoring the only two tries of the afternoon.
Yesterday’s visitors had endured a tempestuous build up to the match with five players stood down for disciplinary reasons and another nine given a rap on the knuckles. But adversity can act in mysterious ways and coach Ewen McKenzie’s hard line may be seen in the future as some sort of turning point for this young Wallaby team.
They were admirably focused for 80 minutes and a win against
Wales next weekend will send them home happy.
Certainly they fully deserved Saturday’s victory. Quite apart from the 2-0 try count, the normally reliable Christian Leali’ifano missed five kicks at goal, four penalties and one conversion, while converting just four.
The Wallabies should have been out of sight in the final quarter instead of giving the Scots something to aim at by defending a six-point advantage.
Scotland’s own points machine, Greig Laidlaw, claimed all the home side’s points with those five penalties but the home side badly missed the cutting edge and vision that Matt Scott and Stuart Hogg bring to proceedings.
Despite their relative youth, the injured pair are already an integral part of the side and it is all the poorer without them. Sean Maitland also looks a better winger than he is a full-back, although he probably enjoyed his best game of the series against Australia despite, or perhaps because of, suffering one late tackle by his cousin Quade Cooper.
No one can question the ambition of interim head coach Scott Johnson’s side. They threw the ball about and came close on a couple of occasions, but they lack a little class, the pedigree that is required to unlock a determined defence.
The men in blue have now gone 160 minutes without crossing the opposition line and their old try-scoring problems simply won’t go away.
On the plus side, newly promoted stand-off Duncan Weir made a positive contribution to proceedings without ever unlocking that Wallaby defence.
His booming kicks from hand turned defence into attack with one swing of his peg and, apart from the odd hiccup, he can look back at a decent afternoon’s work. He started deep but, when Scotland were chasing the game late on, he attacked the line and even had a little dart or two himself.
The home forwards were far more physical at the breakdown and, while they probably lost this battle within the war, it was not a repeat of the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the Springboks.
The lineout creaked, both with and without the throwing of much-maligned hooker Ross Ford, who exited the stage after just twenty minutes, giving way to Pat MacArthur.
Against that, the Scots probably edged the set scrum and, once again, giant lock Jonny Gray made a good impact after his late arrival on the scene. David Denton was his usual industrious self at No.8 but, that aside, the Scots looked a little flat.
The makeshift Australian back line struggled to impose themselves in the opening quarter, with some uncharacteristic errors creeping into their play but they are surgical when they strike.
On twenty-five minutes, the Wallabies poached a Scotland throw at the sidelines and Israel Folau took an simple inside pass, brushed off prop Ryan Grant’s tackle and went through the gears on the way to the line.
The other try came early in the second half. Much is expected of young winger Chris Feauai-Sautia but he took one pass while standing two yards on the wrong side of the touch line, much to the crowd’s delight.
Minutes later, the left winger popped up on the right flank to score the Aussies’ second try.
Maitland felled him short of the line but Scotland’s last defender couldn’t hold on to his man, who jumped to his feet to score.
In contrast, the Scots could look no further than Laidlaw’s boot. The closest the Scots came to a try was late in the first forty, when Johnny Beattie sparked a counter-attack from his own twenty-two. The big breakaway fed Maitland, who was roared on by the crowd. The Kiwi picked a mazy line that was being closed down quickly so he off-loaded to Sean Lamont but the big winger couldn’t quite muster the speed or strength to get himself over in the corner.
Leali’ifano missed his second conversion after Feauai-Sautia’s try but the centre was successful with his third penalty on the fifty-minute mark to give the Aussies a 21-15 lead and the final half hour proved pointless in a very literal sense.
The Scots huffed and puffed to no avail. Laidlaw sniped from a lineout, Tommy Seymour kicked ahead but was never going to win the foot race and Maitland was stopped a yard short on the left flank. But there was far more noise and fury and all too little accuracy and incision as the winning try proved frustratingly
elusive on the night.
Scotland: Maitland; Seymour, De Luca, Taylor (Evans 66 min), Lamont; Weir, Laidlaw (Cusiter 58 min); Grant (Dickinson 46 min), Ford (MacArthur 20 min), M Low, Gilchrist (Gray 66 min), Hamilton, Beattie, Brown (capt), Denton (K Low 60 min).
Australia: Folau; Tomane, Leali’ifano, Harris, Feanui-Sautia; Cooper, Genia (White 66 min); Slipper, Moore (Fainga’a 77 min), Kepu (Alexander 58 min), Simmons, Horwill (Timani 58 min), Fardy (McCalman 75 min), Hooper, Mowen (Capt).