Controversy as Wallabies steal past Scotland

12:04 pm on 19 October 2015

Australia have controversially come from behind to beat Scotland 35-34 in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham, and ensure the Cup will have four southern hemisphere semi-finalists for the first time.

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South African referee Craig Joubert (C) awards the final penalty to Australia during a quarter final match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between Australia and Scotland at Twickenham stadium, southwest London on October 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS

South African referee Craig Joubert (C) awards the final penalty to Australia, despite Scottish protests Photo: AFP

The Wallabies overcame an almighty scare at Twickenham to reach the semis, where they will play Argentina on Monday (NZT), after the Pumas beat Ireland 43-20 in Cardiff.

And while they were the overwhelming favourites heading into the match, the shellshocked Australians trailed at half-time and were behind in the dying seconds before getting out of jail with a Bernard Foley penalty one minute from time.

But South African referee Craig Joubert's big decision to award the Wallabies a penalty for offside after 79 minutes were up on the clock, when the Scots were ahead 34-32 - despite the ball appearing to come off a Wallaby shirt, is likely to resonate for some time.

First-five Bernard Foley calmly slotted the controversial penalty to earn Australia the one-point victory and break Scottish hearts, amid a cacophony of boos.

A despondent Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw lamented the last-minute penalty.

"They've got to the TMO (video referee) for everything else. It was such a big decision. Why wouldn't you go to the TMO for that?" Laidlaw said.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was unequivocal in his appraisal of the decision, however.

"It's a penalty and that's the way it works," he said. "It worked both ways in all games and that's life, you know. You've still got to kick it once you get it."

Scotland's halfback and captain Greig Laidlaw reacts after losing their quarter-final match against Australia at Twickenham, on October 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU

Scotland's halfback and captain Greig Laidlaw reacts after losing their quarter-final match against Australia Photo: AFP

New Zealand and South Africa will meet in the other semi-final on Sunday at 4am (NZT), with both games at Twickenham.

The battle between the winners of the Rugby Championship and the side who finished last in the Six Nations after losing every game looked a mismatch on paper but there was nothing between them in what developed into an epic see-saw battle.

Australia were totally dominant for the first 10 minutes and were rewarded when a surging run by centre Tevita Kuridrani set up winger Adam Ashley-Cooper to score the opening try.

It looked ominous for Scotland but they roared back into the game, earning a Greig Laidlaw penalty then going ahead when Peter Horne picked the ball up at a ruck 10 metres out and, with the Wallaby defence momentarily frozen, strolled over the line.

With their tails up, Scotland tore into their highly favoured opponents and scored another penalty but Australia then turned to their forwards for a 10-phase assault that opened the door for Drew Mitchell to get their second try.

Australia's scrum, highly praised for how it dealt with England, found the Scottish version a tougher proposition and Laidlaw landed another penalty after a collapse.

Again Australia hit back, opting for a lineout instead of a shot at goal and validating the decision by driving flanker Michael Hooper over.

Foley, so deadly from the tee earlier in the tournament, missed all three conversions to allow Scotland to change round with an unlikely 16-15 lead.

The Wallabies had never won a World Cup match having trailed at the break but it took them only three minutes to regain the lead after Scotland wing Sean Maitland was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.

Australia lock Kane Douglas (C) celebrates after getting out of jail in the quarter-final against Scotland at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Twickenham, London, on October 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU

Australia lock Kane Douglas (C) celebrates after getting out of jail in the quarter-final against Scotland Photo: AFP

Australia again kicked for touch, mauled forward and sent Mitchell straight through the hole where Maitland should have been.

Five minutes later they repeated the trick on the other wing, Ashley-Cooper crossing, only for the TMO to chalk it off for a knock-on.

Scotland continued to show real adventure with the ball and got back to within a point when Finn Russell charged down a Foley kick then kept his wits about him when he was tackled, popping the ball up for Tommy Seymour to score.

Again Australia hit back as Kuridrani forced his way over for their fifth try and, with Foley's conversion, the lead was opened to 32-24.

Another Laidlaw penalty, and an unexpected downpour, gave Scotland new hope going into the final 10 minutes.

That turned into a deafening roar when Mark Bennett intercepted a James Slipper pass to level, with Laidlaw's conversion putting the Scots two points ahead and dreaming of their first semi-final since 1991.

Scotland centre Mark Bennett scores his team's third try during a quarter-final match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between Australia and Scotland at Twickenham, London on October 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS

Scotland centre Mark Bennett scores his team's third try Photo: AFP

Australia, however, as they so often do, mustered one more attack and, despite Scottish pleas to the referee to go to the TMO, took full advantage of their last-gasp escape route to stay in the hunt for a third World Cup.

- Reuters, AAP