Australia edged Scotland out of the Rugby World Cup thanks to a last-ditch penalty by Bernard Foley which secured them a 35-34 victory on Sunday.
Scotland’s defeat means that there will be no northern-hemisphere teams in the semi-final stage for the first time in tournament history.
Scotland had looked on track for a win over the Wallabies after a late try by Mark Bennett, but ultimately fell one point short after they were penalised by referee Craig Joubert for a deliberate offside.
The call was made despite replays appearing to show that the ball had in fact come off an Australian player, although Joubert was unable to refer the incident to the Television Match Official due to match regulations.
Foley successfully kicked the penalty through the posts to set up a clash against Argentina in next week’s semi-final, the sixth time Australia has done so.
“It’s a penalty and that’s the way it works. We gave away a try on a charge-down, and an intercept – and that one through the ruck wasn’t good,” said Australian head coach Michael Cheika in the post-match press conference. “All credit to Scotland, it was a great game and we just had to get through it somehow. We got the job done, we got five tries and we’ll enjoy moving on.”
A fast Australian start caught Vern Cotter’s men off guard, and with Australia almost running in two early tries, it was only a matter of time until Adam Ashley-Cooper skipped through a gap on the wing to open the scoring.
A good penalty by Laidlaw was all the Dark Blues needed to launch a fresh attack, but they could not have foreseen the inadvertent help they got from Australia when they allowed Peter Horne to skip through the middle of the ruck and land a try five yards from their try-line.
Laidlaw easily converted, and he again was back with his boot after Australia collapsed the subsequent scrum for the penalty, but should have capitalised further when Finn Russell tipped off a Kuridrani pass.
But the following slip from Bennett was costly, as the Wallabies played the ball through several phases before sending Mitchell wide over the line, though the conversion was again missed by Foley.
Laidlaw kicked well for another penalty, but an infringement by Denton yards from the try line was all Australia needed to run in a third try, this time courtesy of Michael Hooper, while Foley missed the extras.
Scotland had begun the second-half with a one-point advantage, but within two minutes of the restart were pushed onto the back foot as Sean Maitland was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
Australia took full advantage, driving forward from the line-out before Will Genia passed it wide for Mitchell to land his second. But to add insult to injury, Foley somehow found his target from the touch-line to convert and put the Wallabies back into a commanding position.
Scotland’s Tommy Seymour then went over after a poorly-aimed kick by Foley went to Finn Russell who offloaded, while Kuridrani crossed for Australia after Laidlow missed his first kick and his team lost their first line-out of the day.
Foley converted and Laidlaw gained a penalty, but when the rain started and Bennett intercepted a lazy Australian pass, the game had reached a critical juncture.
Scotland’s hopes were raised after Bennett’s try leveled the scores, but they dared to dream after Laidlaw’s conversion. It was in torrential rain the last time they had beaten Australia in 2012, and it seemed now that fate may guide them to another victory.
Yet it was all over when John Hardie took too long to get his hands out following the knock-on and Australia won the penalty, Foley kick for goal in the dying moments enough to send his side through to the clash against Argentina.