Duncan Taylor savours '˜special win' as Scotland stand firm
His contribution to the win was huge. A try, an assist, starting at centre and finishing on the wing, helping lead the defensive effort that somehow held the thin blue line intact in the final minutes, it was impressive stuff from the big Saracens back.
“It was great to play in front a lot of the friends I made when I was here,” he said, as the team set off for their next challenge in Fiji.
“That was pretty special because they were all here today, and a lot of family as well. That meant the world to me.
“It was always going to be a special occasion having my friends here – for us to pull it out the bag and get the win was huge.”
Taylor led something of a nomadic life as a youngster, including a spell in a place called Frenchs Forest, a few miles inland from the Manly suburb of Sydney. There he played rugby in the winter and messed around on the beach growing dreadlocks when the weather allowed.
He enjoyed it so much he has talked about going back to live – whether he will be allowed to after the role he played in beating Australia is a different question. “It made it special to play here because it was always a dream in my mind to come back and play. To play for Scotland against Australia was pretty far-fetched, but it was always a dream,” he said.
“It is a massive thing to win for your country. The last couple of times we played against those boys it was the other way round, we lost in the last minute or so. Fair play to our boys for fighting for that last minute. It is an incredible feeling.
“Defence was what got us through. The boys weren’t willing to roll over, didn’t want what had happened in the last couple of games to happen again. Their fight was incredible. The forwards kept grafting for us. We didn’t get much attacking ball in the second half but our defence was spot-on, especially in our 22. We weren’t giving them much and that was what won us the game.”
To put Scotland’s achievement in context, it was only the third win Down Under, following victories in 1982 and 2012, and the games have all been so tight that five points is their biggest winning margin in Australia – the biggest winning margin in the nine wins anywhere is only nine, in 1981 when they won 24-15 at Murrayfield. They have never scored more than 24 points in beating Australia – the biggest points total against the Wallabies is 34 in that heartbreaking Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss – and achieved the feat with a raw back division averaging only 13 caps a man. Finn Russell at fly-half was the most experienced with 28 appearances.
It would have been something of an injustice if Scotland had lost. They took the lead in the second minute as Greig Tonks, winning his sixth cap at full-back, banged over a long-range penalty, and they held it for all but six minutes of the rest of the game.
Taylor and Russell had pushed the Scots further out in front, both punishing Wallaby mistakes, but Australia kept in touch as two line-out mauls created space for Israel Folau, the full-back, to score.
Will Genia, the Wallaby scrum-half, did put Australia in front going into the final quarter, but Scotland hit back with a score truly worthy of being the match-winner with the forwards patiently going through the phases before Taylor intervened twice, once to send Lee Jones racing down the outside, then taking the return pass to put Hamish Watson in for the try.
It turned out to be the final score of the game but Scotland had to dig deep to hold Australia back, surviving several close shaves and nearly making a mess of the final seconds as their attempt to wind down the clock went wrong and handed the Wallabies a final chance, pulling even more passion from the Scottish defence.
“The next game is now the most important for us,” Taylor pointed out. “It is going to be huge against Fiji because they have some incredibly talented rugby players. They are a really talented team and it is going to be a big challenge going there and dealing with the heat again.
“Fiji are very strong and powerful. They have a lethal running game. We will celebrate our win against Australia, but then we will prepare for the next game.
“It’s important we have shown we have strength in depth. Because of injuries and stuff throughout the season, we need to have guys who can fill in. The depth we have is really good and will improve.”