Wallabies too good for Scotland
Australia outscored Scotland two tries to nil to claim the third victory of their November tour, winning 21-15 at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The depleted Wallabies overcame a much-improved Scotland side in a scrappy Test punctuated by penalties and errors but could easily have won by a lot more had Christian Leali'ifano not missed five kicks at goal.
The Scots had something of a point to prove after last week's humiliating 28-0 home defeat to South Africa, but the signs were a tad ominous after they coughed up possession from the kick-off, and then infringed to allow Leali'ifano to put the visitors in front.
Referee Jaco Peyper was quick with the whistle at the breakdown, rewarding the defending side with penalties for not releasing, and this contributed to an early barrage of three-point opportunities.
Scotland's set-piece struggled in the opening portion of that Springbok hammering, and despite improvements, it continued to pester Scott Johnson's men, as scrum and lineout possession proved unreliable.
The Murrayfield pitch once again hindered scrummaging, and Peyper did not pick up on several blatantly squint feeds from Australian scrum-half Will Genia.
But while the Scots lost five of their lineouts, the Australians secured every one of their own.
An early injury to Ross Ford saw Pat MacArthur enter the fray just 20 minutes into the game, with the Glasgow Warriors hooker afforded the game-time many had called for in the wake of the Borderer's misfiring throwing.
The Australians were guilty of straying offside with cynical regularity in the first-half when Scotland got themselves in attacking positions, conceding a total of 13 penalties (with the Scots not far behind on 11) and it was from one of these infringements that Greig Laidlaw was given the simple chance to level the scores.
Scott Johnson's side enjoyed a brief period in the Wallaby 22, and after a series of big carries from Jim Hamilton, and a jinking run from Duncan Weir, were awarded another straightforward penalty from which Laidlaw gave his side the lead.
Quade Cooper's nasty late charge on Sean Maitland gave Weir a long-range opportunity for three points, but the fly-half's kick was short of the target, and Leali'fano was once more able to tie things up after David Denton strayed offside at the breakdown.
But Cooper redeemed himself in typically swash-buckling fashion minutes later, after a stolen Scottish lineout gave the visitors possession in the hosts' 22.
Exploiting loosehead Ryan Grant in midfield, the pivot gave a lovely inside ball to the onrushing Israel Folau, who finished from 20 metres out. Leali'ifano converted without issue.
Laidlaw added his third penalty, before the Scots burst into life two minutes from half-time.
A scything 50 metre Johnnie Beattie break caught the Wallaby defence on the hop, and his pass released Sean Maitland into space. The full-back fed Sean Lamont 25 metres from the line with Folau covering back, but the winger failed to back himself and stuttered to a halt a metre from the line.
Johnson's men hammered the Wallaby line for the next few phases, but Denton spilled the ball in contact, and a free-kick from the resultant scrum allowed Cooper to end the first half with the visitors leading 13-12.
Folau again showed his menace straight after the break, with a powerul run and offload into the Scottish 22.
But the Wallabies were celebrating again soon after, as fine handling in midfield allowed the visitors to exploit a sizeable overlap up the right-hand-side, and Chris Feauai-Sautia scrambled over in the corner after Maitland failed to complete the tackle.
Leali'fano missed the tricky conversion, and the Wallabies then put themselves under pressure with a barrage of needless infringements.
Second-row Rob Simmonds unleashed a flurry of blows on Moray Low, who was holding the Australian back at a ruck, and after referral to the TMO, Peyper showed the lock a yellow-card.
Laidlaw made no mistake with the subsequent penalty opportunity, and cut the deficit to three points with his fifth successful goal of the night.
But, straight from the kick-off, Scotland were penalised in typically swift fashion by Peyper, as the arriving players failed to stay on their feet, and Leali'fano canceled out Laidlaw's kick.
Scotland pressed hard from the restart, with a powerful burst up the left-hand-side from Denton, and another break from Maitland taking the hosts to within eight metres of the Wallaby line.
Again, though, imprecision saw them spill the ball into touch, and Genia removed the danger with a solid box-kick.
The hosts continued to enjoy the better of the second-half, and indeed looked far more threatening with ball in hand than they did a week ago.
Laidlaw's last act was to scuff a penalty attempt short from some 40 metres, but the miss was not to prove immediately costly as Leali'fano miscued from similar range.
Genia probed the Scottish cover defence with a neat array of box kicks, and Hooper - constantly courting infringements - forced a penalty for his side on the home 22.
Again, though, Leali'fano's radar was off, and the Scots remained in touch six points adrift going into the final ten minutes.
The centre was given an easier chance to effectively put the game beyond the Scots with five minutes to play after Lamont ran into his own player straight in front of the posts from around 35 metres out.
But Leali'ifano missed his fourth kick of the match, and Murrayfield was poised for a grandstand finish.
It ended in something of an anticlimax, however, as Hooper seized upon the isolated Pat MacArthur to win a penalty, and Nic White could send the ball into touch to round off proceedings.
Man of the Match: Australian openside Michael Hooper flirted with illegality aplenty, but his work at the breakdown frequently prevented the Scots from building momentum, or gaining quick ball.
Moment of the Match: There weren't many highlights in this scrappy affair, but Joe Tomane receiving a pass while two yards off the pitch in touch brought about plenty of smiles.
Villain of the Match: The Murrayfield crowd were less than impressed by Jaco Peyper's officiating, but the game's pantomime villain was Rob Simmonds for his poorly-executed boxing attempts.
Pens: Laidlaw 5
Tries: Folau, Feauai-Sautia
Pens: Leali'ifano 3
Yellow card: Simmons
Scotland: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Dave Denton, 7 Kelly Brown (c), 6 John Beattie, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Al Dickinson, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Kieran Low, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Christian Leali'ifano, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nic White, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Bernard Foley
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)
By Jamie Lyall at Murrayfield