Woeful Wallabies crash to record Scotland loss

AN eight-try hammering from an inspired Scotland embarrassed the Wallabies 53-24 in Edinburgh where the send-off of prop Sekope Kepu was far from the sole explanation.

It was a sour end to the Test year and a lamentable showing when even 14 men should have been capable of a far more worthy way to farewell retiring stalwart Stephen Moore in his 129th and final Test.

This should have been a grand sign-off for Moore and a Test to confirm the rise in status and standards from the Wallabies after the poor 24-19 loss to the Scots in Sydney in June.

Instead, the loss was the worst ever suffered against Scotland and the first time the Wallabies have ever conceded more than 50 points to a team from the northern hemisphere.

It wasn’t the way Stephen Moore wanted to finish up his career.
It wasn’t the way Stephen Moore wanted to finish up his career.

The year finishes with a seven win-five loss ledger, plus two draws against South Africa, and too few big wins to back up the brilliant upset of the All Blacks in Brisbane in October.

The Wallabies had led 12-10 when the experienced Kepu was red carded for a misdirected ruck cleanout with his shoulder that collected the head of flanker Hamish Watson in the final minute of the first half.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said he still thought side was capable of winning the Test playing the final 41 minutes with 14 men although it actually became 13 for the final Scottish try when Kurtley Beale was sinbinned for deliberately batting a ball into touch on his tryline.

The Wallabies should have been smarter when undermanned by controlling the ball better but they got sucked into an open game with less structure and the pacy Scots took full advantage.

"The red card was definitely unfortunate but it happens. I don't think it was a turning point," Cheika said of the Kepu dismissal.

The Scots defence is all over Samu Kerevi.
The Scots defence is all over Samu Kerevi.
Sekope Kepu trudges from the field after being given his marching orders.
Sekope Kepu trudges from the field after being given his marching orders.

"I thought we still could have won with 14 to be honest. We came back and started off the second half very well.

"We threw away the ball.

"With less players, if you throw away the ball that is sort of what is going to happen."

Cheika said that French referee Pascal Gauzere made the right call on Kepu.

"I watched the footage...the referee really didn't have much alternative," Cheika said.

"But, just for a point of view for Kepu, he's got no intent to take the player in the head.

Scotland centre Huw Jones leaves the Wallabies defence in his wake.
Scotland centre Huw Jones leaves the Wallabies defence in his wake.

"If you watch the player (Watson), his back leg slips underneath him, so he gets lowered."

It gave the Scots petrol for their rousing display because they scored instantly through lively halfback Ali Price to take a 17-12 lead into the break.

The Scots outscored the Wallabies 43-12 with the advantage of an extra man. While it meant the Wallabies were always scrambling in the second half, they contributed to their own demise with costly turnovers against a Scottish side with the enterprise and hassling pressure to capitalise.

The Scottish made stronger metres with the running of their tight forwards, five-eighth Finn Russell had an excellent game with 13 runs, offloads and five tackle busts, halfback Price sniped and backrower John Barclay led his bustling pack superbly.

It would be wrong to attribute all of the Wallabies' misfires in this Test simply to going down to 14 men because they were the first side to score in the second half with a superb and sustained 20-phase build-up that produced a try for fullback Kurtley Beale, one of Australia's best.

That was the final joy for the Wallabies on a cold three-degree afternoon at Murrayfield but one played under the clear skies that the Wallabies always crave in this part of the world.

Taniela Tupou charges into the Scottish defence.
Taniela Tupou charges into the Scottish defence.

Things started to go wrong for the Wallabies at the 45-minute mark when a Reece Hodge breakout looked promising but a careless pass turned into a Sean Maitland turnover try.

Replacement prop Jamie Bhatti burst through a Moore tackle on a 25m charge shortly after to set up the momentum for a Jonny Gray try and suddenly the Scots had their full house of fans screaming with 29-17 on the scoreboard.

The Wallabies were out-thought as well. Russell settled the issue at the 55-minute mark when he feinted to kick a penalty to touch but instead took a quick tap off his boot, turned to his right and sent centre Huw Jones over through the despairing arms of centre Samu Kerevi.

"We talked about a few changes we wanted to make at half-time so we could stay in that battle but if you look at the tries, we gave stupid balls away," Cheika said.

"We threw one ball on the ground when we were making a break. We could have gone in front and we didn't have that discipline to understand that it was going to take going through phases and then putting the opposition under pressure.

"We actually tried to go and win the game as opposed to just stay in it and see what happens and battle through it. The (Scotland) quick tap, things like that, were just little signs of knocking off. "

Coach Gregor Townsend and John Barclay with the Hopetoun Cup.
Coach Gregor Townsend and John Barclay with the Hopetoun Cup.

The Wallabies felt for Moore who was given a standing ovation by a knowledgeable and packed Murrayfield when he left the action for the final time after 59 minutes.

"I don't think a player's career is summarised by one match, any match or a moment in the game. His attitude and character will be imprinted on this squad going forward," Cheika said.

"He is a genuine authentic Wallaby, he loves Australia, it hurts him when the team is not seen in the right light and he will do anything for the team be at the top."

Rookie prop Taniela Tupou came on for Kepu and his first scrum in Test rugby was in a seven-man pack shunted backwards.

Tupou had tears in his eyes during the singing of the national anthem and his 27 minutes will hopefully be the start of a long career.

The Test took dramatic U-turns in the seven minutes before half-time with the Wallabies trailing 10-0 to an enterprising and hassling Scottish side which had already scored a turnover try from a loose Bernard Foley pass.

Centre Tevita Kuridrani crossed twice off excellent kick-ahead plays from Foley inside four minutes.

Stephen Moore walks through a guard of honour to mark his last Test.
Stephen Moore walks through a guard of honour to mark his last Test.

Equilibrium seemed restored for the Wallabies with a 12-10 lead because the first of the tries had been constructed with the 20-phase build-up of pressure the Wallabies had been struggling to find.

The second was smart counterattack when Scottish winger Byron McGuigan split a pass on the sideline on halfway. Foley swooped and a kick-and-regather gave him the chance to throw a pop ball to the ever present Kuridrani.

Australia's first half lead lasted all of three minutes before Kepu was sent off.

It was unintentional but Kepu's flying cleanout of Watson collected him in the head with a right shoulder.

Hooker Moore had a mixed farewell to Test rugby. He nailed his first long lineout throw to Michael Hooper, marshalled a strong scrum when it was a full strength and ploughed into everything but a missed tackle, an intercepted pass and one wonky lineout throw were part of the team blemishes.

SCOTLAND 53 (B McGuigan 2, J Barclay, A Price, S McInally, S Maitland, J Gray, H Jones tries; F Russell 5 conv, pen goal) bt AUSTRALIA 24 (T Kuridrani 2, K Beale, L Timani tries; B Foley 2 conv)