Lucky win over Scotland could push Wallabies to the end
Luck often plays the biggest part, and the Wallabies got a big slice of it in Sunday’s win at Twickenham.
LONDON - If history is any guide, Australia's last-gasp quarter-final win over Scotland could be the break the Wallabies needed to win the Rugby World Cup.
Of all the ingredients teams need to win the tournament, luck often plays the biggest part, and the Wallabies got a big slice of it in Sunday's 35-34 win at Twickenham.
A week ago, they were challenging New Zealand as favourites to win the Webb Ellis Cup, but no longer after their sloppy showing against Scotland.
While their running and passing had been precise and clinical in the pool match against England, they butchered several chances against the Scots.
Nor was there a repeat of the incredible defence the Wallabies showed against Wales as they leaked 34 points to the Scots.
Australia's general kicking was poor with Scotland scoring one try off a charge-down as well as some bone-headed plays, including the interception that put Scotland ahead.
Coach Michael Cheika saw some positives in the performance but was unhappy with his team's lack of composure.
"You've got to pick up, got to improve. We didn't improve in that game," he said on Monday.
"I didn't think we were poor. We scored five tries in a World Cup quarter-final, we have three against us, a charge-down and an intercept, so that means some bad decision-making from us on that front."
Still, the match could yet turn out to be an omen. The Wallabies won both of the two previous World Cups played in Britain but they flirted with early elimination each time.
The win over Scotland bore a lot of similarities with another Australian great escape, also in the World Cup quarter-finals.
The Wallabies were overwhelming favourites to beat Ireland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin in 1991. Few gave the Irish any real chance and from the outset, the Australians looked to be in control, although they never got too far ahead on the scoreboard.
Five minutes from the end, the match suddenly turned around.
Ireland conjured up a tryout of nothing, with flanker Gordon Hamilton racing away and scoring in the corner to put the home team ahead and leave the Australians just minutes away from being knocked out.
But, just as they did against the Scots, the Australians found a way to win, scoring a last-minute try by Michael Lynagh in the corner to break Irish hearts.
Unfased by their brush with an early exit, the Wallabies produced their best performance of the tournament a week later to beat New Zealand and went on to win the World Cup for the first time beating England in the final.
In 1999, the Wallabies needed another slice of luck to win their semi-final against South Africa at Twickenham.
Neither side scored a try in a match which became a titantic arm-wrestle with Australia's Matt Burke and South Africa's Jannie de Beer trading kicks.
The Wallabies led from the 13th minute but couldn't shake off the Springboks, with de Beer kicking a penalty in the last minute to tie the score at 18-18 and send the game into extra time.
The odds seemed to favour the Springboks. A week earlier, de Beer had kicked five drop goals in the quarter-final against England and he kicked the first goal in extra-time to put his team ahead for the first time.
Burke landed a penalty to level the scores again but Australia were starting to show signs of fatigue when Stephen Larkham pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Better known as a runner and playmaker, Larkham had never kicked a drop goal in international rugby but he decided to have a shot from the halfway line and to everyone's astonishment, it sailed between the posts and sealed Australia's win.
The following day, France did Australia a great favour when they knocked out the All Blacks in one of the great upsets of all time but the French could not repeat that performance in the final and the Wallabies won a second World Cup.
Cheika knows his team have been given another chance but he warned his players they have to play much better if they want to capitalise on it as other Australian teams have.
"Without improvements, we won't get the outcome we want," he said.
"That's honest. The lads know it...everyone knows that we need to improve." Visit the Eyewitness News special Rugby World Cup 2015 portal.
Visit the Eyewitness News special Rugby World Cup 2015 portal.