Australia 35-34 Scotland: Foley breaks World hearts in semi-final thriller
Australia will now play Argentina in next weekends RWC semi-final
Bernard Foley kicks last-minute penalty to snatch narrow win for the Wallabies
Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell x2, Michael Hooper, Tevita Kuridrani were the Aussies try scorers
Peter Horne, Tommy Seymour and Marcus Bennett tries plus 19 points from Laidlaw completed the Scots’ scoring
Brave Scotland were denied a place in the World Cup semi-finals as Australia snatched a narrow victory with seconds to spare at Twickenham.
It was Wallabies fly-half Bernard Foley who slotted over a simple penalty in the 80th minute to seal the win in dramatic circumstances, but the penalty decision that led to the decisive points was shrouded in controversy.
Adam Ashley-Cooper and Peter Horne traded early tries before Drew Mitchell, and Michael Hooper went in for Australia, but Greig Laidlaw’s impressive kicking saw Scotland nudge 16-15 ahead at the break.
Mitchell was in again shortly after the break but a stunning final quarter saw Scotland back in touch, Tommy Seymour scoring amidst metronomic kicking from Laidlaw before Mark Bennett made it 32-all with minutes to go.
Though Laidlaw converted for a two-point advantage, it was Foley who had the final say, thrashing over a penalty in the dying seconds to seal a semi-final place.
Starting as massive outsiders prior to kick off, the pre-game chatter surrounded whether Scotland could finish their campaign with pride. But the early signs were worrying for the home nation as Australia enjoyed a purposeful start, recycling play with ease and running dangerous lines in a dominant early spell.
It came as no surprise that the Aussies opened the scoring, Ashley-Cooper getting on the end of a powerful Kuridrani break.
But Scotland plugged away and began to unsettle the two-time champions, Foley bombing a simple chance before Laidlaw got the scoreboard rolling for the Scots with a penalty goal.
Then came the moment that Scotland had been waiting for. At Twickenham, an enormous Scottish roar greeted Horne as he nipped through a yawning gap in the Australia defence – Vern Cotter and his men had the world on their side.
Built on steely work in the ruck It was only the third try Australia had conceded in the tournament and, following Laidlaw’s conversion, more points came their way soon after as a scrum penalty fell the way of Scotland, the fly-half obliging one more to make it 13-5 with 21 minutes played.
Scotland were firmly in the ascendancy, but the Wallabies showed their class, bagging two tries before half-time as they looked to save their World Cup lives.
Firstly, slick handling worked Mitchell into space, the 31-year-old finishing well in the corner, and Hooper then finished off a ferocious drive to drag his side back into the contest.
But Laidlaw’s composure with the boot saw another penalty come the Scots’ way between those efforts, giving the Tartan Army a shock one-point lead at the break.
After Sean Maitland was on the end of what was viewed by many as a harsh yellow card, Australia set about stamping their authority on the match one more.
They took full advantage of the extra man, shifting the ball out to Mitchell, who plunged through space out wide to go over. Foley, who had missed his first three conversion attempts, finally landed his first to put the man in Gold 22-16 up.
Undeterred, Scotland fired back, the relentless Laidlaw cutting the deficit to three points with another penalty, setting up a stunning final 20 minutes.
With Australia looking comfortable, Russell’s charge down of a slack Foley kick swung the game’s momentum once more. Under pressure, the fly-half gathered well before sending Seymour over for a squeeze to the line.
Laidlaw’s flawless kicking then suffered its’ first blemish of the night, but, at 25-24 down, Scotland were charged with belief.
Though Kuridrani bundled his way over for a converted score soon after, the eight-point gap only served to stoke the Scotland fire as Laidlaw made it a five-point game with the final ten minutes approaching.
The Wallabies were on the rack and Mark Bennett shook the streets of London with a clever interception try, scorching over under the posts for the Scots’ third try of the night after a sloppy pass.
And Laidlaw made no mistake with the kick to put his side ahead with just five minutes left.
But Australia would go on to keep their World Cup dream alive in the most dramatic of circumstances, as Foley hammered over a late penalty to snatch a place in next week’s semi with Argentina.
Man of the Match
Scotland: Greig Laidlaw
In a performance filled with heroes, Laidlaw was outstanding. In a tough opening period, the in-form Gloucester man kicked his men back into life, while dictating general play for much of the game. An almost perfect captain’s performance, only blemished by the cruel outcome for his side.