Australian side shrugs off controversy to down Scotland at Murrayfield.
The Australian revival gathered pace at Murrayfield on Saturday, a hard-fought 21-15 victory over Scotland making it three wins in a row for the Wallabies.
Just three weeks ago, Ewen McKenzie’s men were facing their bleakest season in years.
A series loss to the British and Irish Lions, which brought the dismissal of Kiwi coach Robbie Deans, was followed by home and away defeats to both New Zealand and South Africa in the Rugby Championship tournament.
That left the November Test match series to salvage some pride, but a narrow loss to England at Twickenham to start with only deepened the gloom.
Since then though the Australians have battled back with wins over Italy and Ireland steadying the ship and the result in Edinburgh sends them into next week’s finale against Wales in Cardiff in much improved spirits.
The buildup to the Scotland game had seen more bad news for the Wallabies with 15 players sanctioned — six of them hit with a one-match suspension — for a late-night drinking session ahead of the Ireland game.
Centre Tevita Kuridrani then received a five-week IRB ban for an illegal tackle against the Irish and centre Matt Toomua was ruled out because of a hamstring injury.
But according to skipper Ben Mowen, instead of sapping morale, the absence of so many first team regulars only served to rouse team spirit and open the doors for a group of talented fringe players.
“The feeling is really good. We wanted to show people that we are really united and I think that we showed that tonight,” he said.
“I think we showed that there was great spirit, fighting hard for each other. It says a lot about the characters of the guys. It wasn’t just a throwaway Test. It was extremely important for us and it was a huge result for us.
Mowen, who took over the captaincy of the team from James Horwill for the Rugby Championship win over Argentina in Perth, said that a difficult week had only served to bring the tour party together.
“I think it made us a little bit tighter to be honest,” he said.
“Some of the players were extremely disappointed and there there are obviously a lot of emotions that go into those moments.
“You have got to pay credit to those guys that have been working extremely hard outside of the 23 (match day) players each week.
“It was extremely important for Chris Feanuai-Sautia to get a try like. When you get moments like that when it’s guys that are wearing a bib for the rest of the tour it provides great moments for us and we are going to need that to finish off the tour,”
Australia coach McKenzie said he was relieved to get the job done with two tries to nil, on top of the four tries to nil showing against Ireland, but he admitted there was still room for improvement.
“I’m obviously happy with the outcome,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to come here and play – they’ll be greedy and put pressure on. We made mistakes and didn’t take the penalties when we got them.
“We were up against it but we came through. We lacked discipline during a couple of moments in the first half when they came back into it and although we got the try, we didn’t push on.
“We were struggling to get one win in a row [earlier this year], we got two in a row last week and now another one. It’s a different challenge next week against Wales.”