Australia 6 Scotland 9
Sludge match ... Sitaleki Timani is wrestled to the ground on a sodden night in Newcastle dominated by endless forward runs. Scotland's pack held its own to win a last-minute penalty. Photo: Steve Christo
SCOTLAND succeeded in humiliating the Wallabies for the second time in three seasons when they smacked them in the slosh with a last-minute penalty goal enabling them to win in atrocious conditions in Newcastle last night.
The International Rugby Board 12th-ranked team, who had a dreadful Six Nations tournament, succeeded in making the Wallabies look second rate - and with it suffer yet another appalling start to their international season.
Triumph ... Scotland celebrates after the full-time whistle. Photo: Ryan Osland
As with Samoa last year, the Wallabies were all at sea in their first Test of the year, and wasted numerous good opportunities in the second half to put the visitors away. And to just rub it all in, they then had to experience the Scottish five-eighth Greig Laidlaw kick a penalty in the last minute, after the Wallabies scrum was penalised for collapsing, to win them the Test - prompting scenes of ecstasy among the tourists.
The Wallabies decided to make it even more excruciating for themselves by opting to run into the gale during the first half. Australia won the toss, and you would assume a sane team would try to take advantage of a wild breeze while it was there and stack the points up early. But no, the Wallabies are clearly masochists and love the wet whipping them in the face.
Not surprisingly they spent virtually all of the half perched in their own quarter, and were forced to repel endless Scottish charges. That they prevented the Scots scoring a try before the break was admirable, but the Wallabies didn't help themselves in the opening quarter by trying to kick themselves out of trouble. They soon realised this was a silly option especially when some of their kicks started ballooning back towards them. A pow wow was required and the Wallabies thankfully used their brains and realised that if they were to win this game they had to tough off the first half, not be silly, and play relentless pick and drive football to run down the clock. For the second quarter, they worked this tactic to good effect, to eventually find themselves in a foreign part of the field - the Scottish half. They even somehow got close enough to the try line to have a kick at goal - with new centre Mike Harris having to bash the ball like Don Clarke to get it over the crossbar just 20 metres away. It was understandable that considering the Scots dominated the first-half territory they had three chances at goal, two successful, to take a 6-3 half-time lead. That wasn't enough of a lead to make the Scots feel comfortable.
Brick wall ... Scott Higginbottom is stopped in his tracks. Photo: Ryan Osland
Nonetheless these were perfect conditions for them - a bit like a balmy evening on Loch Ness - cutting rain, and a hurricane-force wind blowing down the ground. You were almost expecting Hamish Macbeth to emerge from the mist. And you also have to credit the frontier spirit of many Novacastrians who braved these ridiculous conditions, defying the elements to sit out in the open, ignoring the dangers of drowning and hypothermia to cheer on the Wallabies. Madness maybe, but admirable madness.
At least the Wallabies tried to keep their head in the second half. They played field position and eventually the points came. They levelled the scores in the 43rd minute with a Harris penalty, and should have taken the lead 12 minutes later when second-rower Rob Simmons, who had just come onto the field for Sitaleki Timani, found the line. However the video referee could not determine whether Simmons had scored and it was disallowed.
Then followed countless minutes of hard toil, made even harder for the Wallabies by the tenacity of the Scotland scrum. The Scottish pack refused to give the Wallabies anything, and enabled the visitors to show greater resolve than they did in their dismal Six Nations campaign.
Wallabies v Scotland
Australia V Scotland at rain soaked Hunter Stadium in Newcastle. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers
They also succeeded in thwarting the Wallabies at the breakdown, several times winning possession by effectively tackling them and keeping them up at the maul.
And then several long kicks by the Wallabies didn't work, enabling Scotland to sneak back down the field and salvage what was an admirable victory.
SCOTLAND 9 (Greig Laidlaw 3 pens) bt AUSTRALIA 6 (Michael Harris 2 pens) at Hunter Stadium. Referee: Jaco Peyper. Crowd: 20,088.