Brave Wallaroos defy red cards to beat Scotland in Rugby World Cup thriller | Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021
Australia have put their Women’s Rugby World Cup hopes back on track with an Ashley Marsters try in the 73rd minute, securing a thrilling comeback win in their second match of the campaign against Scotland in Whangarei, New Zealand.
After their heartbreaking implosion against New Zealand’s Black Ferns in the opening round, the Wallaroos trailed all game against Scotland only to cross twice in the final 20 minutes of game time to post a crucial first victory of the campaign. Australia’s Eva Karpani, Grace Hamilton and Sharni Williams were standouts in the triumph.
Wallaroos skipper Shannon Parry said it “wasn’t pretty” but lauded her players for the way they stayed in the fight. “It was nerve-wracking. It was a real tough battle against Scotland, they really showed us how to play some footy there today,” Parry told Stan Sport. “I’m immensely proud. We gutted it out all the way to the end – an 80-minute performance – and to come away with that victory, it’s a really good reward.
“We didn’t play as good, as clinical as we wanted to but we’ll take the points. We’re still alive in this tournament, and that’s what matters.”
The Wallaroos’ win consigned the Scots to consecutive last-gasp defeats. Taking part in their first Rugby World Cup in 12 years, Scotland last week lost a heartbreaker in the opening round against Wales, kicked from what might have been a famous comeback victory into a narrow 85th-minute 18-15 defeat by a Keira Bevan’s post-siren penalty.
Scotland showed they were chasing revenge when they started with gusto, rocking the Wallaroos by jumping to an early lead when veteran front-rower Lana Skeldon charged over in the ninth minute from the maul for the opening five-pointer, 11 years after making her Test debut for Scotland against the Netherlands.
In the 18th minute, dominant Scottish flier Rhona Lloyd scooted away for what seemed a certain try. Somehow recovering from the bone-rattling tackle of Iliseva Batibasaga to retrieve the lost ball behind her, Lloyd then ducked under a pack of gold defenders into yawning space , then flew into a yawning gap with the line wide open.
But, in desperate scenes, Wallaroos winger Maya Stewart then fullback Lori Cramer swooped from left and right to hit Lloyd from either side and spilled the ball free just before she crossed. It was a massive save and proved crucial to the final result.
Especially when the Scots extended their lead in the 27th minute with a penalty try, after a forward drive to the line was collapsed by Adiana Talakai who compounded the seven-point gift by being sent to the bin with a yellow card. It took Scotland’s lead to 12-0 at half time and left Australia’s World Cup hanging by a thread.
In their first pool match at Eden Park, the Wallaroos had defended stoutly and took their chances in attack and counterattack, to seize on New Zealand mistakes and go 17-0 at half time. But before over 40,000 Kiwi fans, the Wallaroos had let that lead slip, conceding 41 unanswered points to the Black Ferns in the second stanza.
Against Scotland at half time, they found themselves similarly flummoxed but for very different reasons. Australia had made 239-metres to Scotland’s 142 with 110 passes to Scotland’s 32, as 19-year-old Bienne Terita, in just her third Test, caused havoc and veteran Sharni Williams tore up the midfield in her fourth World Cup.
Despite 63% possession in the first half the Wallaroos had given up 65% of territory to the Scots in the opening 4o minutes. The other remarkable stat was the Australians had made just 22 of 28 tackles whereas their rivals had executed a massive 81 of 97 tackles. Despite making all the running, the Wallaroos were still trailing.
Twenty minutes into the second stanza, Australia still hadn’t bothered the scorers. But with the strong Whangarei wind at their back they were finishing fast. Arabella McKenzie was stopped just short of the stripe, then Eva Karpani was held up as Australia hammered beyond 10-phases under a penalty advantage. Finally, the blue wall cracked as Scotland ran out of numbers and a cutout ball from McKenzie found Terita for a simple finish to make it 12-7 with the conversion.
In the 71st minute Australia knocked Scotland off the ball to win a new penalty and spurned three points for an attacking scrum 30-metres out. A fantastic carry off the scrum win from Terita took it the 22 before Scotland infringed in front of the posts. Australia opted for another scrum and went left, eventually finding Marsters charging in on an angled run at first receiver to split the line and crash over.
Cramer added the extras to put Australia 14-12 in front with eight minutes to play. But when Marsters was red-carded for head-on-head contact with Sarah Law in the 76th minutes, the game took another twist as Australia were asked to hang on with 14 players.
There was another red card in the closing stages as Talakai’s tackle took her yellow into the red zone and saw Australia down to 13. Although the Scots launched fresh waves of attack, the gold line held firm to the end to secure a brave Wallaroos victory.
Although those late red cards to both hookers leave Australia vulnerable going forward, they now prepare to face Wales at Northland Events Centre in Whangarei next Saturday knowing that a win should ensure progression to the quarter-finals. Scotland’s task just gets harder, as they face New Zealand in their final pool game.