Bernard Foley broke Scottish hearts with a penalty in the dying moments here at Twickenham to send Australia through to a semi-final against Argentina after what was quite possibly the greatest World Cup match ever.
Scotland thought they had done it when Mark Bennett’s intercept-try put them ahead with just minutes left but it was not to be for this brilliant Scotland side Vern Cotter has harnessed.
But my goodness can their nation be proud. Cotter will have been furious with how his side started the match though. A silly infringement at the ruck from their kick-off allowed the Wallabies early territory and Adam Ashley-Cooper scored off as a direct result of that minutes later.
England’s executioner Bernard Foley should have scored himself but went for an unnecessary offload with the try-line at his mercy, but the Scots never cleared their lines and Ashley-Cooper was put over in the corner for his 34th try in 112 Tests after Tevita Kuridrani had stepped inside to break the Scottish line.
Foley missed the conversion but the nature of that try – Australia at their fluid best, punishing basic errors – will have had Scotland fans fearing a cricket score but they responded magnificently.
Powerful carrying from their pack, with No 8 David Denton to the fore, brought them to Australia’s 22 and when the Wallabies were pinged for putting hands in a ruck Greig Laidlaw reduced the deficit to two points within minutes of Ashley-Cooper’s try.
And it would get better for Scotland. Their ball retention through the forwards was again superb and when it brought them to the try-line an Australia defence that had been so good against Wales and England crumbled, allowing Peter Horne to pick and go and dive over under the posts unchallenged. Australia were visibly rattled.
Foley inexplicably knocked-on fielding a bread-and-butter kick and from the resulting scrum the Wallabies were penalised again, allowing Laidlaw to stretch the lead to 13-5.
Scotland were in dreamland. It could have got even better had Mark Bennett not fumbled on the overlap and he was soon made to regret that as Australia rallied to score their second try.
Their basics may have let them down in the first-half but the Wallabies backline again showed how lethal they can be as Scotland were stretched from one side of the pitch to the other, allowing space for the predatory Drew Mitchell to score in the left corner.
Foley missed another tough conversion and Laidlaw showed him how it should be done minutes later, slotting over after another penalty awarded at the scrum.
The Wallabies were clearly lacking the leadership, presence and sheer class of injured duo David Pocock and Israel Folau but captain Stephen Moore was stood up when it mattered, opting for the line-out in the corner on the stroke of half-time when an easy three points were on offer.
His gamble paid off when Michael Hooper scored off the back of a rolling maul from that line-out, but Foley again pulled his kick wide from the right touchline, meaning Scotland went into the break 16-15 ahead after a pulsating first 40 minutes.
The drama showed no signs of abating as the second period kicked off, with a yellow card and a try within three minutes. Unfortunately for Scotland, it was they who were on the receiving end.
Sean Maitland deliberately and cynically knocked-on inside his own 22, Australia rolled another maul off the resulting five-metre line-out and Mitchell had another simple finish down Scotland’s now-vacant right wing.
At his fourth attempt, Foley finally had himself on the scoresheet with the conversion. Scotland were resilient with 14 after though and were even able to reduce the deficit through Laidlaw as they won a third penalty at scrum time.
But as Maitland returned to the fray, Foley was scoring a penalty from a Scotland offside. Foley was the villain once again minutes later though as his kick was charged down by his effervescent opposite number Finn Russell, who then popped to the supporting Tommy Seymour who dived over for Scotland’s second try.
Australia soon rumbled over for their fifth try through Kuridrani but Laidlaw got Scotland to within a score. And score they did as Bennett intercepted to send Scotland into delirium. But is was not to be. What a match.