Australia squeeze past heroic Scots
AUSTRALIA 35 SCOTLAND 34
A miserable weekend for Northern Hemisphere rugby was wrapped up as Scotland saw their World Cup semi-final hopes dramatically snuffed out by Bernard Foley's last-gasp kick at Twickenham.
After Wales, France and Ireland all crashed out of the tournament, Vern Cotter's team made it a clean sweep as Australia highlighted the extent of the dominance growing south of the equator.
Their 35-34 win means for the first time ever, the RBS 6 Nations will have no representatives in the last four.
But had it not been for two controversial calls from referee Craig Joubert, Scotland could have stunned Michael Cheika's team after a performance to be proud of.
A brace of tries from Drew Mitchell, combined with further scores from Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper and Tevita Kuridrani in the end handed the Aussies the tightest of victories.
Peter Horne, Tommy Seymour and Mark Bennett all crossed over for the Dark Blues.
But there will be bitterness over South African official Joubert's decision to sin-bin wing Sean Maitland just minutes into the second half as well as the late offside call which ultimately allowed Foley to snatch victory and set-up a semi-final clash with Argentina at the same venue in a week's time.
The Aussies saw skipper Stephen Moore and centre Matt Giteau both celebrate a century of caps, while Scotland were able to include Ross Ford and Jonny Gray after successfully appealing their three-match bans.
Cotter left it late to confirm their inclusion, with the news only being released an hour before kick-off.
But despite that uncertainty, the Scots - 9/1 outsiders according to the bookies - put in a first-half display that the Aussies simply were not prepared for.
It took them a bit to get going though. With Will Genia rapid around the breakdown, the Wallabies were quickly leaping forward and only Mitchell's missed catch two yards out prevented them scoring after five minutes.
Seymour was to blame though as Australia did touchdown five minutes later as he darted out from his line looking to smash Kuridrani but the centre brushed him off before slipping Ashley-Cooper in to score. Foley dragged the conversion wide.
The Dark Blues hit back with a Greig Laidlaw penalty and that was the spark they needed. They got a helping hand though when Australia switched off entirely at a ruck five yards from their own line, allowing the alert Horne to skip through a gaping hole to put his side ahead.
Laidlaw added the extras and then a penalty as Scotland stepped things up. But they should have capitalised further when Finn Russell pinched a Kuridrani pass. Bennett, though, dropped the ball with the Aussie flank exposed.
It was an expensive spill as Australia went through a dozen composed phases before whipping it wide for Mitchell to dive over. Again, Foley missed the conversion.
The Australian pack had been hailed before kick-off by Cotter but it was his side who dominated the scrum battle, allowing Laidlaw to notch another penalty.
But Scotland's lead was reduced to a point just before the break. Australia rolled the dice as they turned down an easy penalty and it paid off as Cooper barged over for their third try. Foley let the Scots off the hook with another missed conversion.
Joubert's decision to flash yellow at Maitland after the restart for a deliberate knock-on was incredibly harsh though and left Scotland vulnerable.
The Wallabies took advantage, driving forward from a line-out before Genia tossed it wide for Mitchell to score again. To make matters worse, Foley finally found his range as he nailed the conversion.
Laidlaw and Foley then exchanged kicks before the drama was turned up again when Russell charged down Foley's pass. The stand-off was hauled down before he could make the line but kept the ball alive as he popped off to Seymour who charged in for his fifth try in as many games.
Skipper Laidlaw's first miss of the day meant Australia remained in front and when the Scots failed to win their own line-out five yards from their line, Kuridrani punished them again as he battered through for another Aussie try, converted by Foley.
But a stunning finale was in sight as Laidlaw added another penalty.
When the Scots last beat Australia in 2012 it was played out in monsoon conditions Down Under. So when the heavens opened over Twickenham with seven minutes left it appeared destiny was on their side, with Bennett intercepting a James Slipper pass before darting in for another stunning score.
Laidlaw converted to nudge his team ahead but when Joubert punished Scotland for offside - turning down Scottish appeals to refer it to the TMO - it handed Foley the chance to finally see off the plucky Dark Blues with a last-gasp penalty.