Scotland romped to a record 53-24 victory over 14-man Australia at Murrayfield on Saturday, as a 39th-minute red card for tighthead prop Sekope Kepu led to an eight-try thrashing.
Australia’s ill-discipline proved costly again, after the Wallabies had captain Michael Hooper and full-back Kurtley Beale yellow-carded in the 30-6 loss to England at Twickenham last week, while head coach Michael Cheika was subjected to a World rugby investigation because of his reaction.
This time Cheika could have had no complaints when Kepu was sent off by French referee Pascal Gauzere after clearly smashing a forearm flush into the face of Scotland flanker Hamish Watson at a ruck.
Australia were 12-10 ahead at the time but with 14 men they conceded six tries — making seven in total — before they were reduced to 13 players in the 78th minute and Scotland crossed again.
Townsend’s team ended up smashing both their record margin of victory against the Wallabies (previously nine points in a 24-15 victory in 1981) and their highest points tally against the men in green and gold (34 in their controversial 35-34 World Cup quarter-final defeat in 2015).
It was Scotland’s best points tally against a Tier-One nation, eclipsing the 38 they put past Ireland in 1997, and the final tally was also the highest aggregate points score in a fixture between the two countries.
Australia scored four tries of their own, two by centre Tevita Kuridrani, but it was another depressing afternoon for Cheika and former skipper Stephen Moore in his last match before retiring.
Scotland lost star full-back Stuart Hogg to a hip injury in the pre-match warm-up but still managed to back up both their 24-19 win against the Wallabies in Sydney in June and their outstanding showing in the 22-17 defeat by New Zealand last week.
MCGUIGAN STARS ON FIRST START
Fly-half Finn Russell kicked them into a 3-0 lead with a 14th-minute penalty and two minutes later winger Byron McGuigan, making his first start as a stand-in for Hogg, took advantage of turnover ball to hack up field and dribble the ball over the line for his first international try.
With Russell’s conversion, Scotland found themselves 10-0 to the good but after 33 minutes Kuridrani got on the end of fly-half Bernard Foley’s perfectly-judged grubber kick to score his first try. Three minutes later Foley teed up Kuridrani for his second try in three minutes.
Foley missed the conversion and from that two-point lead the visitors proceeded to implode in a costly minute of madness before the interval.
Kepu saw red, then Scotland scrum-half Ali Price picked up the ball from the back of a maul and jinked over for try that Russell converted to give Scotland a 17-12 half-time lead.
The Wallabies drew level three minutes into the second half, Beale darting between Watson and Russell to score.
Foley’s scuffed conversion left the scores tied but Scotland started to make the most of their man advantage, scoring two tries in four minutes.
After 45 minutes, Scotland wing Maitland took advantage of turnover ball, racing up the left touchline to score, before lock Jonny Gray raced over from ten yards out just four minutes later.
Russell converted the latter and Scotland were 29-17 ahead.
Townsend’s team had their fifth try in the 55th minute, Russell catching the Australian defence off guard with a tap-penalty and shipping the ball to Russell, who jinked past three defenders to claim his seventh try in only 11 internationals.
On the hour the South African-born McGuigan claimed his second try and — after a 68th-minute try by Australia’s replacement lock Loptei Timani — in the final six minutes there were further Scotland tries from captain John Barclay and hooker Stuart McInally, the latter coming after Beale had been yellow carded for slapping the ball out of play in the in-goal area.
Provided by AFP Sport
Defeat to Abu Dhabi Harlequins at the beginning of the month left a sour taste in the mouth of Stephen Ferguson, but the big Northern Irish forward says he and his Dubai Exiles teammates won’t let it derail their season.
Exiles began the 2017/18 campaign in blistering fashion, blowing away Dubai Eagles and rivals Hurricanes in the opening two weeks – putting up 125 points in the process.
They have been brought crashing back down to earth since, however, losing their next three fixtures against Jebel Ali Dragons, Bahrain and Quins – by a combined margin of 11 points.
The season is now on a sevens hiatus until mid-December, which is even more frustrating for Ferguson who was impressive at Zayed Sports City on his comeback from an operation to remove an abscess on his arm.
“It feels amazing to be out there with all the boys and I got to play against my mate Sempy (Quins scrum-half Andrew Semple) too, from Derry, but it was a gutting loss,” said Ferguson, 29, who has more reason than most to be angry at the stop-start nature of this season’s fixture list.
“The rest of the guys will play sevens now but for the bigger guys who won’t, we need to keep the reps going because you don’t want to go back to square one again.
“I’m only getting back now and I’m not going to play sevens, I’m 135kg. I’ll do a mini pre-season and I think a lot of the
other big guys in our team will do that too, because we don’t want to lose what we’ve built up.
“We’ve been so close in our defeats and we don’t want to take our foot off the gas now before Christmas. We’ll still be training twice a week and be doing a bit more sevens training now which will be beneficial for all of us.”
After Exiles had begun to banish the ghosts of last season with their roaring start to the campaign, Ferguson is adamant the three latest losses won’t impact the squad.
“We’re definitely not getting derailed,” he said.
“Every loss has been closer and we’re feeling like we’ll come through this as a team. Our defence this year has been exceptional. Denis (Hurley, assistant coach) has come in and we’ve all bought in to what he’s teaching us. Our attack (against Quins) was better than it was two weeks ago.”
It will be an interesting week for Michael Cheika. Although he will be saying completely the opposite, the Wallabies coach knows that he has every chance of exacting sweet revenge against his old Randwick club mate, England boss Eddie Jones, this Saturday at Twickenham.
Cheika and Jones used to be mates. “Used to be” being the operative phrase. But then Jones took his England team down to Australia in June 2016 and brought Cheika, still floating on a high from the 2015 Rugby World Cup, down to earth with a shuddering thud.
England triumphed 3-0, their first ever Test series victory in Australia, but it wasn’t the results that really irked Cheika. It was the way it was done. Jones, like any old hooker, loves a good sledge and he tore into Cheika from the moment he touched down.
Cheika, usually one to give as good as he gets, stayed oddly mute – almost as if out of respect for the former Australian coach. But Jones paid no such heed, allowing Fast Eddie free-reign to clean Cheika up off and on the field. And Eddie clearly delighted in his revenge.
He had been, many would say unfairly, sacked as Australian coach in 2005, after taking the Wallabies to the RWC Final just two years previously. He then returned to Australian Rugby in 2007 only to be sacked again, spectacularly, after just one season at the Queensland Reds.
For Jones, wiping the smile off the faces of those who laughed at him a decade ago, was cold comfort richly enjoyed. Cheika just didn’t expect he would be the one carrying the brunt of Jones’ ire, staggering around last June in a bewildered stupor as Eddie tore shreds off him daily to the delight of the travelling British media core.
You could almost sense Cheika’s silent protest: “Come on Eddie, we’re mates!” Well, not any more. It’s gloves off as the two men prepare to face off this weekend, and this time Cheika has come out swinging.
Asked if he was going to enjoy sparring with Jones again this week, Cheika shot from the hip: “Mate it’s irrelevant, It’s Australia versus England. It’s not about fun with Eddie.” Ouch.
And for once it’s Jones who has been caught on the back foot after he was captured by TV cameras slamming a notebook and shouting “How ****ing stupid are we?” at a silly penalty as his team stumbled unconvincingly to perhaps the worst of his 20 wins from 21 Tests in charge – 21-8 over Argentina.
Cheika’s team in comparison were excellent in there 29-21 victory over Wales, the pick of the opening weekend of Autumn Internationals.
In a high quality Test match, the Wallabies (without Israel Folau and Jack Dempsey) defeated an impressive new look Wales outift in a highly enthralling match.
In comparison the EnglandPumas game was a snore-fest and the All Blacks seemed off-colour against a very poor France. Ireland were impressive as they demolished South Africa 38-3 and its a great pity we won’t see them against the All Blacks or Wallabies this November.
Jones will have a wary eye on the Irish come next year, but for now its the resurgent Wallabies and the growing-in-confidence Cheika who will be most concerning him. And this time the boot could well and truly be on the other foot.