Bernard Foley’s penalty a minute from time saw Australia break Scotland hearts as they won a thrilling World Cup quarter-final 35-34 at Twickenham on Sunday.
Fly-half Foley, who missed his first three goal-kicks, held his nerve amidst raucous boos from Scotland fans unhappy with an offside call by South African referee Craig Joubert.
“I don’t know if I’ve got ice-cool nerves. I’d rather not be kicking them right at the death,” Foley told the BBC.
“There is a lot of character in this side. Even when we were behind with five minutes to go, we knew we had a chance. But credit goes to Scotland.”
The penalty came from a botched Scottish line-out, with a knocked forward ball ending up in the hands of Scotland forward Jon Welsh, who was then offside.
However, replays suggested a touch in between by Australia’s Nick Phipps, which could have led to a scrum rather than a penalty.
“They got the TMO (television match official) for everything else, it’s such a big decision — why would you not get the TMO for that?”, frustrated Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw told ITV.
However, a World Rugby spokesman later told AFP that Joubert was unable to call upon the TMO as the incident had not taken place in the lead-up to a try and did not involve foul play.
It had seemed Mark Bennett’s intercept try seven minutes from time, when he grabbed a loose pass from James Slipper, had set up a huge World Cup upset by Scotland, who lost all five of their matches in this year’s Six Nations.
But Australia, the 1991 and 1999 world champions will now face Argentina, who beat Ireland 43-20 earlier in Cardiff, next Sunday again at Twickenham.
Scotland’s defeat meant that for the first time the last four in a World Cup would be an entirely southern hemisphere affair.
Australia had a measure of control at 25-19 heading into the final quarter.
But Finn Russell’s charge-down of Foley’s kick led to a try for wing Tommy Seymour.
Laidlaw, who kicked 19 points in total, missed the difficult conversion, but Australia’s lead had been cut to a point at 25-24.
Australia appeared to have wrapped up the match in the 63rd minute.
They won a Scotland line-out off a Scotland throw and and centre Tevita Kuridrani, bursting through the cover, scored a converted try.
That gave Australia a 32-24 lead. But scrum-half Laidlaw’s fifth penalty cut the Wallabies advantage heading into the last 10 minutes as rain started to lash down upon Twickenham.
Australia were missing two injured stars in full-back Israel Folau and No 8 David Pocock, but captain Stephen Moore and centre and man of the match Matt Giteau both won their 100th Test caps.
Scotland made two late changes, recalling hooker Ross Ford and lock Jonny Gray after the pair won their appeals against three-week bans imposed for a dangerous tackle against Samoa.
– Horne heroics –
Australia had their first try in the ninth minute when Kuridrani, missed by Seymour, released right wing Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Laidlaw got Scotland on the board with a 12th-minute penalty and five minutes later they scored a remarkably simple converted try when centre Peter Horne picked up off a ruck and caught a static Wallaby defence unawares before going in under the posts.
Laidlaw’s penalty then made it 13-5.
But Australia crossed again when, after a powerful forward effort, wing Drew Mitchell went in on the left.
Foley again missed the conversion before another Laidlaw penalty made it 16-10.
But on the stroke of half-time Australia had a third try.
Giteau booted a kickable penalty into touch for a line-out and, from the ensuing driving maul, back-row Michael Hooper scored.
Foley, however missed his third successive goal-kick and Scotland were still 16-15 in front.
Scotland wing Sean Maitland was yellow carded early in the second half for a deliberate knock-on in what seemed a harsh call by Joubert.
Joubert’s decision led to Australia’s fourth try, with Mitchell — off another line-out move — going into the space vacated by Maitland.
This time, Foley converted to put Australia 22-16 up only for Laidlaw’s fourth penalty to peg Australia back.
Foley replied in kind and then came the dramatic finale.