Devastated captain Greig Laidlaw insists his fearless Scotland side have a prosperous future after being cruelly robbed of a place in the World Cup semi-final by a contentious last-gasp penalty as Australia prevailed at Twickenham yesterday.
Leading 34-32 with a minute remaining, referee Craig Joubert controversially deemed replacement Jon Welsh to be deliberately offside, although replays suggested Australia scrum-half Nick Phipps had the final touch before the Newcastle prop gathered the ball.
The previously wayward Bernard Foley broke Scottish hearts with the resulting penalty, while World Rugby have confirmed that Joubert, who immediately sprinted off the pitch after blowing the final whistle, was correct in not using the television match official to determine an offside call.
Australia now face a semi-final clash with Argentina at Twickenham on Sunday, the first time in World Cup history there will be no northern hemisphere representation in the last four.
“This Scotland team is different to the one that was in the Six Nations. We don’t just want to be one of those teams that come close, I think we have the makings of a special team,” said Laidlaw.
“The spirit of this side, we’re unbreakable at times, and that’s the spirit we’ve had throughout the tournament. There are no egos in the group, every man works as hard as the next. But it will take at least a few days, weeks to get over this.”
Australia had peppered the Scottish line by the time bulldozing centre Tevita Kuridrani bounced off Tommy Seymour and fed wing Adam Ashley-Cooper to crash over early on.
Laidlaw penalties were a consistent theme and he reduced the arrears before carries from prop WP Nel and No8 David Denton laid the foundation for centre Peter Horne to cheekily break from the ruck to reply for Scotland.
Wing Drew Mitchell dotted down unopposed after a destructive attack, while flanker Michael Hooper was the beneficiary of a huge Australian shove as the Wallabies scored two more tries before the break.
Despite an inferior try count, the kicking accuracy of Laidlaw and Foley’s defunct radar ensured Scotland still led 16-15, although in the opening stages of the second period Joubert adjudged wing Sean Maitland to have knocked on deliberately and issued a yellow card.
Within seconds Australia took full advantage as Foley released Mitchell to pierce the Scottish rearguard, although a further Laidlaw penalty kept the Dark Blues in touch, trailing 22-19.
A Foley penalty extended the lead before Finn Russell charged down his counterpart’s clearance and offloaded for Seymour to maraud over the line, although Kuridrani penetrated the Scottish defence to ensure any momentum was short-lived.
Another Laidlaw penalty — he kicked 19 points in total — cut the deficit before replacement prop James Slipper’s errant pass gifted centre Mark Bennett a free gallop under the posts, with the conversion added, only for Joubert and ultimately Foley to decisively intervene.